Thursday, February 9, 2012

Planning a month worth of meals

Impossible you say, hardly!  As much as I love to cook and be in the kitchen, getting dinner on the table every night is not easy. It takes some serious organization and planning, not to mention some creativity to please five different palates. My husband is a recovering picky eater, and our children are young (ages 4, 7 and 15). You can imagine the challenges I face!
Every Friday I make out my list for my bi-weekly groceries based on the meals I plan to make over two weeks. Yes you read right, I plan in 2 week increments.  Any special request I get from the family I put on my list of meals to add in the month.  All of my groceries consist of fresh fruits, vegetables, protein, pastas and the occasional frozen pizza and vegetables.
My family is flexible and open to trying new things.  Last week we were obsessed with Risotto and this week we are obsessed with Egg Noodles.  Our meals can vary from Salmon, Soups, Homemade Pizza, Hamburger Patties, Tacos and even Sandwiches. 
My husband and I established some rules early on and have stuck with them. The most important rule is that I make one dinner and one dinner only. If the children chose not to eat it, they are out of luck. While that may seem harsh, it gives them the control, and most of the time, they eat what I serve them. Every night, we turn off the TV, sit at the table and don’t answer the phone. It’s nonnegotiable. The children set the table and clear afterwards. Everyone has some ownership, and it makes getting dinner on the table every night easier.
Any of our leftovers, because we always make plenty, go for school lunches and work lunches.  My children do not traditionally eat sandwiches for lunch or like school lunches so I make their lunches homemade.  It does take a team effort and as the children get older they each take part in cooking and making lunches.  After years of doing it this way, it seems seamless, but is a challenge in the beginning.  The secret is to make a plan and stick to it.