From my Instagram (where I do post a lot of our meals)
Delicious and easy recipe here (I used fresh basil from our garden and gluten free pasta)
A really good friend of mine recently asked how much we spend a month on groceries. She was shocked and in disbelief at the low number. In fact, she thought that I could not possibly be correct. In light of our way of eating (some organic and gluten free), she assumed we spent a lot more.
After talking about it, my friend and I realized that the reason we don't spend as much is the planning. After asking around, I learned that many of my friends don't have a weekly menu plan. They run to the grocery store (often whole foods because it is the closest) and buy their ingredients daily or a few times a week. I could never do that. It seems so time consuming and stressful to me. But maybe some people like the grocery store (like my friend Shana!)
Dave (awesome husband) does our grocery shopping. I typically plan our meals for the week and write the list. He does our shopping for a few reasons. It kinda started back when I was in a car accident and getting acupuncture/chiropractics and was told "no lifting." But honestly, I hate grocery shopping and Dave sticks to the list. If I go (which I do sometimes), I throw in all sorts of treats we don't need and waste money and food. Plus, did I mention that I hate grocery shopping and he's the best husband?
So, when I sit down to make the list each Saturday or Sunday, I have a few methods. First, I look at our week to see what we have going on. For example a few nights a week, we are not all home at the same time. Kate has gymnastics, Will has water polo or ACT class or work or friends, Harry has lacrosse, I have clients or book club, etc. On those nights when we all need to eat but at different times, I typically make something like a lasagna or chili or stew or something in the crockpot. Most of those meals make enough for 2 dinners so we eat leftovers the second night. That way, there is something simmering on the stove and people can eat as they get home. Or they can warm it up easily in the microwave. Dave and I usually eat together with whomever is home around 6 or 6:30 (Harry and sometimes Will) and then serve the others as they get home. Kate doesn't get home from the gym until 8:50 so she eats a small late dinner a few times a week. I really hate that.
Until this year, we ate as a family almost every single night. That was HUGELY important to me. There are tons of studies on family dinners and the benefits to families. And for 17.5 years of parenting, we were able to do it. Unfortunately (but fortunately for her), last month Kate was moved up a level in gymnastics and now she gets home too late 2 nights a week for us to eat together. But we really try to do so the other nights as best we can.
At least three/four nights a week we eat together at home (some of the other nights, we eat out as a family too). On those nights that we are all home, I typically plan things that should be eaten right away such as grilled meats and veggies. For example, this week, I will make the pork tenderloin on a night we are all home to eat together and the slow cooker meal on a night when our dinners are staggered. Make sense?
Typically, we plan the meals but not the exact nights. So I have meals I make on gymnastics nights and meals I make on non gym nights but I don't always plan the exact one I will make it. We probably should do that but I like to be a little flexible. Sometimes we are craving meat or pasta. Our weather fluctuates so much this time of year (freezing one day and gorgeous the next) that we might want a salad one day and stew the next. So, we have an idea of what we are making but we decide the days as they come that week. Plus, plans are always changing with teenagers and an 8 year old. And I hate when I make a big meal and no one is home to eat it.
Dave used to cook about 50% of the time (when we lived in VA 6-10 years ago). Dave is a really good cook. Now he works later and so I typically cook during the week. He will sometimes do a quick weeknight dinner of tacos or sautéed fish if he gets home at a good time. And he typically cleans up on the nights I cook.
How do I decide on the meals? Some weeks, I ask the kids and Dave if there is anything they especially want me to cook. I am also a big fan of cookbooks and pinterest. Some weeks, we stick to the things we have been making for years (tacos, pasta with sundried tomatoes and grilled chicken, lemon pepper shrimp, roasted chicken, gluten free pasta with sausage and meatballs, etc). Some weeks, I am adventurous and find new recipes to tackle. I use Pinterest and cooking blogs a lot. Pioneer Woman never lets me down. EVERY SINGLE recipe is good (although I sometimes adapt them to make them gluten free or use more fresh ingredients). Ina Garten is another favorite as well as Giada, Two Peas and their Pod and Skinnytaste. I also try to plan by varying the kinds of meats (pork, turkey, chicken red meat and fish) and including one meatless night but the teenage boys rebel so I have to be sneaky about that. We choose about 4 meals per week counting on leftovers for one or two and eating out once a week. Once in a while, we have grilled cheese and avocado sandwiches or hot dogs (GASP!) or pizza or Chinese food.
So, this is our meal plan for the upcoming week:
Honey Butter Pork Tenderloin
Baked Sweet Potatoes
Slow Cooker General Tso's Chicken with jasmine rice.
Caprese Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with a fresh green salad.
Dave will also cook a Sunday meal tomorrow. I just don't know what it is yet:) Often he grills or cooks ribs or steaks or fish or beef braise with veggies and sides. The boys are meat eaters for sure.
Last week we had:
Lasagna (I use fresh bulk Italian Sausage and gluten free noodles and freshly shredded Parmesan to lessen a little of the processed foods) This makes enough for our family for 2+ dinners and everyone LOVES it!
(This was really good but TOO spicy for Kate and some others). I used half the creole seasoning and we like spicy foods. I am thinking our andouille sausage was also very spicy) I will make it again but adapt for the spiciness. This also made enough for 2 meals for our family. Maybe I doubled the recipe…not sure?
Slow Cooker Honey Chicken Thighs
*This last meal was in the plan but because of a few missing ingredients and a change in plans, I had to punt. I ended up making buffalo chicken thighs that I kind of made up on the fly in the crockpot. They were surprisingly good. I will make these properly very soon though as they look delicious and easy and the reviews are excellent.
If you want to see the recipes I pin, you can follow me on Pinterest here.
If you want to see the recipes I Instagram, you can follow me here.
I am not a meal planning expert at all, this is just what works for us and I thought it might help others too. If you have a favorite recipe or tip, please share it or leave the link in the comments. I am always looking for new ways to feed our family (we need more vegetables). I am going to try to post more often about our meal plans here as well. Maybe not weekly but maybe twice a month:) Also, if you have any questions, I will answer them in the comments too.
Also, thank you for all the kind comments on my last post. I think I responded to everyone and visited those of you that have blogs. I am grateful for the continued support of all of you.