I don’t mean to keep talking about it. But I do. I can’t help it. It’s who I am. I love food. Food is the thing around which my family revolves. It’s horrible, I know. I didn’t say family time, or love, or our faith. I said food. But here’s the thing, food is the thing that brings us together every day guaranteed. Breakfast and dinner, 99.9% of the time, my family are together. I believe that the more I teach my children about food: what is healthy, how to reduce waste, why they should feel grateful for our food, the stronger we are as a family. So, deciding to menu plan was a no-brainer for me.
Why Menu Plan
And honestly, it should be for you too. I’m never going to tell people how they should eat. Or shove some diet down their throats. In fact, I don’t believe in diets. Really. Not even a little. I pretended to be paleo this one time, but eh. But, I really believe that if you make the kitchen the heart of your home a lot of other things fall into place naturally.
What I mean is that when your menu is planned out for the week, your life becomes less stressful. Again, I’m not saying you should eat a specific way, but I believe you should plan at least minimally what you’ll eat for the week as a family. Think about it? How often are you running around like a crazy person, trying to shove a pop tart or some sustenance down your kid’s throat while also trying to feed yourself and maybe put on clean underwear? Been there? It sucks, right? Listen, my friend. Menu plan.
Every Sunday, I write out the menu on a whiteboard for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My kids make their own breakfast and lunch every morning. My husband or I, or both, are in the kitchen with them. There’s music on, I’m usually yelling at one of them for messing with the other. Or I’m yelling because I haven’t gotten in sufficient amounts of coffee. Regardless we’re there together, and they’re making their own food.
There are usually two options for each breakfast and lunch. Not dinner, you eat what’s put in front of you without complaint. But if I’m forcing them to make their own food, they should get some choice. Unless I haven’t grocery shopped that week. Or we’re particularly poor because I just spent $300 on the 7-year old’s dance costumes. WTF by the way? And sometimes I might be trying to get rid of something before it goes bad and therefore I’m essentially force-feeding them, but tricking them into thinking they’re self-sufficient. Anyways, mostly there is a choice. Because I think this helps them feel more like they really are helping themselves.
I make dinner every night. And what’s funny, even though I joke that it’s horrible that they make their own breakfast and dinners, they are usually trying to help with dinner. Or at least present chatting my ear off about God knows what. Or they’re doing homework or chasing the baby around. And again, there’s usually music. It helps mask my yelling.
But, you see, I menu plan for the week because it enables my family to be together. There is often fighting and yelling, and supersonic screaming and so much asshattery, but we’re together. And my hope is that this time elicits great memories and habits for them and not large therapy bills.
Menu plans my friends. If not for you, for your kids. In the beginning, if you decide to have them make their own breakfast and lunch, it will seem like more work. It really will. But if you can make it through the first week or two teachings them where the supplies in the kitchen area and how to clean up after themselves, then I promise it gets easier than it is now. And honestly, I do a lot of the prep for them on Sundays. For example, I pre-cut veggies or cheese. Or I’ll make a pasta dish that they can throw in their thermos’. Or now, that they’re getting older, they do some of that prep. Because again, so much of our time is spent in the kitchen already, why not prep together. And what I’m really trying to teach them is that with a little thoughtfulness, self-care, and family care, it can be simpler.
Here are a few tips to help you menu plan successfully:
- Don’t try to be too fancy. Protein, veggie, and or fruit. Maybe a starch or dairy. Boom, you’ve got a balanced meal.
- Crockpots are your friend
- Get the kids involved, the more they get a choice, the more likely they are to be on board
- Buy thermos’. Seriously, best $51 I ever spent ($12.74 each X 4 kids).
- Buying veggies and cutting them ahead of time is cheaper than you think. 4 cucumbers, 4 peppers, a bunch of celery, and a bag of carrots lasts us at least the week.
- Don’t overthink it. The goal is family time, less stress with the added benefit of saving money.
- Get creative. A couple of weeks ago, I refused to buy meat because it was so expensive. I made up a pasta dish with a ton of green veggies and used cans of diced tomato. It wasn’t the most delicious meal I’ve ever made, but it was good and there weren’t any complaints. It also costs maybe $3 to make.
- Develop pantry/fridge staples. Some of mine are rice cakes, graham crackers, peanut butter, blocks of cheese, Greek yogurt, assorted frozen veggies, assorted frozen fruit, applesauce, cans of diced tomatoes, lentils, whole-wheat pasta, and brown rice. We could survive at least a month, maybe two, with these things.
- Be open to adjustments. (See number 8). Sometimes I’ve forgotten the ground turkey for sloppy joes or thought I had an ingredient I didn’t. Or I have a lot more leftovers than anticipated. Be flexible.
- Be patient with yourself. Maybe the first week is perfect, maybe it’s not. In time, I promise you’ll be so glad you started menu planning!