Meal planning always begins with the best intentions- a nice balanced week of food, a mix of simple and more involved recipes and different types of cuisines. Last week the planning was no different, but the execution was not as easy. Several days last week I wasn’t feeling super and in the late afternoon the meal I had planned on making just didn’t sound great to me. I texted Eric each afternoon and asked, “What sounds better- fish tacos or cobb salad? Beef hand pies or chicken lettuce wraps?” He thought the service around here was amazing! I didn’t want him to get used to the changing daily menu choices so I fessed up that nothing sounded good to me and that while I was happy to cook it was his job to pick the meal.
That’s the beauty of using a pencil with a good eraser when meal planning. What I had planned on for Sunday night’s dinner got moved to later the following week due to a last minute family birthday celebration. Wednesday’s dinner got moved to Monday because I had all the ingredients and no time to go to the store. Friday’s meal wasn’t made because I needed a cooking break and moved that meal to Monday. It usually all works out. My goal over the past few years has been to meal plan so that when the plan changes, we don’t end up wasting a bunch of food that goes bad and has to be thrown out. All of us are guilty of that right? And it doesn’t feel good at all…
I have finally found a way that works for me and that is to break up the grocery shopping into two times a week. This will be different for everyone, but as I wrote in a previous post, I look at my calendar on Sunday, and then make a meal plan for the entire week, including at least one of the following weekend days. I go to the store on Sunday or Monday as well as the farmer’s market to get me though 3-4 dinner meals, breakfast, lunches, snacks, etc. If I made everything as planned, then I shop for the rest of the week/weekend. If I had to make a change- last minute dinner invitation to someone’s house, meeting went longer than expected, the flu hits our house, etc. then I adjust accordingly. When I used to shop once a week, my cart looked like I was stocking up for a big storm to hit, not to mention the issue of enough refrigerator and pantry space. So, taking two trips to the grocery store a week is what generally works for me.
Speaking of taking two trips to the grocery store, I get to do that completely kid-free beginning in a few days! Camp Mom is about over and I think we are all finally ready to throw in the summer beach towel. I’ve got some easy recipes planned for the week, as well as using a yummy one from last week that I didn’t quite get to. It’s also the time of year that I need to pull out those easy breakfast and snack ideas. During the summer I pretty much only make my kids dinner- they are in charge of making their own breakfast, snack and lunch. It’s just a nice, well-deserved break for me. Kudos to all of you that have your kids make their own school lunches. I’m just not there yet! I want to be, but it’s not the morning battle I choose right now.
A few recipes I’m making this week:
Baked Chicken Meatballs
These are really easy to make ahead and bake at dinnertime. They are full of flavor and a great recipe to double or even triple and freeze for another day. I often serve them with roasted sweet potatoes or Brussels sprouts and a Caesar salad. You can also toast some rolls and make a tasty meatball sub sandwich with your favorite pasta sauce and melted mozzarella/provolone cheese on top.
A few changes I make- I have made this recipe with diced pancetta (Trader Joe’s has this for a reasonable price) and diced bacon. Either way, if you cook the pancetta or bacon in the pan it will render enough fat to sauté the onions making the whole dish more flavorful. If you use precooked bacon, just add a touch of olive oil to the pan, add the precooked bacon diced up and it will crisp up in the pan and then you can add the onions and sauté. I also really like adding a mixture of ketchup and barbeque sauce- just brush it right on top before baking. It’s a favorite around here!
Thai Chicken Wrap with Spicy Peanut Sauce
This is the kind of dish I make on our super busy Wednesday evenings. When all kids have practice or a game from 5-8pm, this is the kind of meal that is easy to prep ahead of time and keeps us from getting our dinner from a drive through window. The chicken can be grilled earlier in the day and the veggie and herb mixture only gets better as it sits. If both of these are done ahead of time, you can walk in the door and have dinner on the table in 10 minutes. Another idea is to pre-make them and wrap in foil, cut up a melon and put it in a container and you’ve got dinner on the go. Hmmm… maybe I look forward to these crazy Wednesday evenings!
Four words for you- Trader Joe’s pizza dough. What kid doesn’t like to make their own pizza? I pick up the dough, a few toppings, a bag of romaine lettuce for salad and we’ve got an easy, quick and fun family dinner.
Egg Breakfast Casserole
There are a million recipes for these types of egg dishes. It’s a standard item in any breakfast potluck because it is easy, can be made ahead of time, and feeds a lot. This is a staple in our house, especially during the school year because I can make it the night before in about 10 minutes. I make it as directed, but if I have time and ingredients; I like to sauté diced red bell pepper, scallion, and spinach and put that on the bottom of the casserole dish before pouring the egg mixture in. This dish has been known to show up on the dinner table served with a fruit smoothie and nobody complains.
Pineapple Zucchini Quick Bread
My kids love this packed for their morning snack or sliced with cream cheese in lieu of a sandwich. It makes two loaves and we usually plow through one before I get a chance to wrap them up and refrigerate. If your family has more restraint than ours does, then you can cool the loaves completely and wrap one up and freeze it. I make as directed with one exception- the recipes calls for “egg substitute” but I just replace that with 2 whole eggs.
Happy planning this week!
PS- The calendar below show Tomato Pie, Grilled Sausage and Corn Salad on the menu for next weekend. This will be in a future blog post, I promise!