Feeding My Family: Part 1 – Menu Planning

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This post is part of a series on how I plan, shop, and prep food for my family. I explain my processes so that you can adapt some of the strategies to your individual situations. 

Even for someone who *loves* food and cooking, everyday food planning and prep is tedious. However, I’ve found some ways to make things run more smoothly overall. It does require some up-front work, but you’ll earn it back in one night not spent wondering what to make for dinner and searching your cabinets. Multiply that by 5 nights a week, and you’ll have an hour back every week.

What kind of grocery shopper are you? Do you:
a) just throw a bunch of stuff in your cart and hope that you end up with something edible?
b) go to the grocery for dinner food nearly every night?
c) buy the normal stuff every week, but get sick of eating the same three things?

For me, I make a big shopping trip once every two weeks, with a quick stop at the beginning of the second week if we need more milk/bread/produce. It’s so much less stressful not to have to worry about what we are eating or how to squeeze in shopping every night (let alone the savings!).

We’ve been meal planning for a few months now, and when we fall out of routine, we instantly regret it — life gets more hectic (and much more expensive). So here’s how I do it.

I start by picking a meal for each theme day while looking at my calendar, sticking mostly to the days but switching things around if we have a crazy night or something else. We mostly adhere to the schedule, but sometimes something just doesn’t sound great, so we will swap days around.

We were really worried about meal planning being boring or tedious, but it actually helps us keep more variety in our dinners. How? When planning a month at a time, we try to plan something different for each of the theme nights with as few repeats as possible (unless we are just really into a certain dish at the moment).

Let’s look at the next two weeks (I didn’t plan a whole month this time because of the holidays making our schedules weird):

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(Like the colors to match my Emily Ley Simplified Planner?)

There are some abnormalities to this two-week plan, but overall, it shows how different our meals are night-to-night. Note – we usually eat fish at least once a week, but I’ve gotten a bit burned out on it lately. Also, we don’t mind eating the same meat two nights in a row as long as it is prepared in a different way, either.

The other portion of meal planning for us is lunches. My husband and I eat leftovers or lunch meat for our lunches every day, and since I usually make a big pot of soup on Sundays, that fills in any gaps. My kids, however, have to have specific portions of things for lunches due to government regulations, so we’ve developed a series of items:

  • Whole Grain/Protein: Turkey and Cheese or Peanut Butter and Jelly on Honey Whole Wheat Bread
  • Fruits: Two fruits each day per week – this week, it’s raspberries and clementines.
  • Veggies: Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers for little boy and black olives for big boy

Ready to start meal planning? You don’t have to do theme nights! This is just how we ensure that we don’t eat the same five things every week. You could also just make a list of all of your favorite meals to look at each week, or modify my nights to suit your family’s tastes.

Once you’ve got your meal plan ready, join me for the next post, where we plan out your grocery trip and talk about money saving tips.

My Favorite De-Stressing Secrets

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My job comes with A LOT of stress. I mean, a whole heap. Now that my husband is a teacher, too, our stress is often doubled.

(Hey, Amanda: are we really going to completely ignore the fact that you’ve only posted once this calendar year? Yes, yes we are. See the first sentence of this post.)

Even taking away my three-hour daily commute and transitioning into a fantastic school with amazing kids and great administrators, my job is still stressful. That’s just the life of a teacher.

So it’s absolutely essential that I find ways to de-stress, and I’m starting to get this relaxing thing down. Wanna know my secrets?

Hot baths. Like, an obscene number of hot baths. Something about the warm water just calms me instantly. One day, I’d love to have a hot tub; I seriously use it every single night.

British tea. I’m totally not trying to be a hipster, but I adore PG Tips (an English breakfast-style tea) with milk and sugar. I’m so thankful that my local Kroger has been carrying it for a few years now and I don’t have to order it from a specialty store anymore.

Alone time. My husband and I make sure that both of us get some kind of alone time every single week. Even if it’s just an hour, this time to recharge really helps personally and to keep our marriage going strong. For me, this usually coincides with hot bath time.

Mandatory kids’ bed time. Our kids get put in bed at 7:00 nearly every night, with very few exceptions. It may take them until 8:00 to fall asleep sometimes (and, okay, maybe sometimes even 9:00 on a rare occasion) but this is a huge key to our sanity. It guarantees us time – sometimes together, sometimes separately, sometimes working in tandem – which is definitely our most precious resource. It also helps when one of us, usually me, isn’t feeling well because I know I can go to bed at 7:00 without seriously burdening my husband and vice versa.

Daily grind coffee body scrub. I love pampering products, but I don’t always have the budget for things for me, which means Perfectly Posh is a great fit — amazing products at fantastic prices. I also love their Drop Dead Gorgeous Dead Sea Mud Face Mask. Be forewarned, however: this is a highly effective product so the tingling is intense! It doesn’t bother me and I have super sensitive skin, so I get over the tingling for the awesome results.

Magazine binges. I have been known to buy 5 magazines at a time. I really should probably just buy a subscription to one of my faves each month, haha. When I can get a quarterly issue, I absolutely LOVE Domino, and I don’t mind settling for an Ikea or Crate + Barrel catalog. Some of my favorite magazines are Real Simple, HGTV, Southern Living, Traditional Home, Southern Living, Kentucky Monthly, Food & Wine, Food Network, Martha Stewart Living, Bon Appétit, House Beautiful, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and many more!

Perusing Instagram. A few months ago, I came across an article listing several of the best photographers on Instagram. Because of this, my feed is full of gorgeous images from accounts like @natgeotravel, @natgeo, @gavman18, @tuulavintage, @sarahirenemurphy, @kirstenalana, and @nunziacillo and feels sort of curated. And, I’m not going to lie, some other favorites such as @westelm, @potterybarn, @nbcsnl, @bethbehrsreal, @walkinlove, @vrsly, @kjp, @taylorswift and @dominomag don’t hurt, either 😉

A great book. Or really, a quick read will do, too. I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like to (mostly because I borrow e-books on my Kindle Paperwhite from the local library, and I often don’t finish them before the loan expires) but I eat books up when I have time. This is something I have been trying to make a priority this year.

Dedicated work time and family time on Sundays. Let’s be honest: it’s a lot easier not to stress knowing that at 9:15 every Sunday, my kids leave with my mom and I have until 3:30 to myself to work on school work, house work, or fun stuff. Then, at 3:30, I go to my parent’s house for family time until 7:00. I try to be finished with work by this time (because I actually want to hang out with my kids and parents).

And when all else fails, television. Whether it’s Fixer Upper (love Chip and Joanna!), Dr. Who, Harry Potter, or Hunger Games, a favorite movie or TV binge definitely lets me escape from the daily grind.

When it comes to de-stressing, it’s important to have a lot of tools in your arsenal. What are some of your favorite ways to de-stress?

Themed Menu Planning

I’ve been off for a full three days and I’m already starting to try to sync back into some kind of routine. Luckily, since I will no longer be driving three hours each day for work, I will actually be able to sustain routines and make them carry through. Heck, I might even post more often than once every six months 😉

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Y’all know that one of my obsessions is food. I love cooking (but not baking, thankyouverymuch) and it’s one of my stress relievers from my job. I also crazily love grocery shopping. I have a routine and a local Kroger that, with its market-style layout and amazing employees, makes my experience another chance to relieve stress and get some me time.

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First stop: Starbucks, right in my Kroger.

But I hate meal planning. I often get stuck in a rut of what to make and forget about the dozens of other awesome items I can cook well that we haven’t had for 6 months.

So we are going to do what all sane   rational crazy families do: theme nights! I’m sure these won’t work for everyone, but they work well for us.

Mexican Monday- enchiladas with sour cream queso sauce, fajitas, tacos, quesadillas, taco salads, and anything else I learn how to make.

Italian Tuesday- Oh man, do I know a lot of recipes in this category! Alfredo, spaghetti, lasagna, ravioli, etc. and so on.

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New Ideas Wednesday- Catchy name, right? If you think of a better way to put it, please let me know. We love finding new recipes (my husband even pins things that look good for me to try*), so this is the day that I’m dedicating to finding new favorites. This is in place of Pinterest binging and making like 6 meals in one day to try new things. What??? Don’t pretend you’ve never done it!

#ThrowbackThursday- Thursdays will be dedicated to all our family favorites and traditional recipes: grilling, salmon, fried catfish, meatloaf, tuna noodle casserole, Chicken Bryan. I could probably name 100 recipes here.

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Fun Friday- We budget eating out once a week. For us, we’d rather buy quality ingredients for the rest of the week than eat out all the time. This day is for Chinese food, pizza, and restaurant trips. Can you say Texas Roadhouse?

Sandwich Saturday- We’ve usually got a lot going on on Saturdays, and with all the rush, sandwiches are great. Hamburgers, goetta grilled cheese, paninis, cold sandwiches, tuna melts, BLTs, and homemade accompaniments such as potato or pasta salad.

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Soup and Salad Sunday- Sundays are the days that we actually only have to worry about lunch, since we go to my parents’ every Sunday evening. We usually like to eat light, and I often make a pot of soup that we can take for lunches during the first half of the week. Plus, who can resist a spinach salad with goat cheese, candied walnuts, and raspberry vinaigrette? Tomato Bisque, beef vegetable, broccoli cheddar, potato (with ham and bacon, duh), and maybe I need to expand a little in this category with some new recipes!

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What are your favorite themes for planning meals? Have a suggestion for our Wednesday nights?

*Before the Internet explodes with sexism remarks about my husband, he can and does cook, and often. I just prefer to cook and he, being awesome, does the dishes. I hate doing dishes *shudder*.

Bloglovin Verification

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On thinking…

I’ve been doing some thinking.

Maybe I’m not a home and diy blogger.

Maybe that’s why I can’t seem to make this blog stick.

Maybe I need to be a lifestyle blogger, which allows me to have some of that but mostly gives me license to do whatever and talk about whatever. Maybe that will make me feel more connected.

Maybe I’ll start collecting stories and ideas to go with crafts and photos and such. Mmm, photos. I miss taking photos with my DSLR!

Maybe you’ll hear from me more often, and soon 🙂

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