Hello! I wanted to take a moment to talk a little about meal planning and how it has changed radically from where I was when I started meal planning. Back when I could pour myself a glass of wine and cook to my little heart’s content.

Don’t worry, I still drink wine.

I have been meal planning pretty religiously since we have been married. At first, it was fun to pick out fun recipes from the all the magazines I ordered. Those were the days….

Now, it’s a matter of survival. It keeps me in line to serve healthy meals and have healthy food on hand. I can’t imagine how people don’t plan their meals. Seriously. If you don’t meal plan, I would actually love to hear how you decide what to make and how you do it. You know something I don’t! I would be a mess without a plan.

So, here are some lessons that I have embraced as things have gotten more hectic in our lives.

1. Sometimes you have to be a grown-up. So, I would never call myself a picky eater, but I am a picky cooker. I could give you a long list of things I don’t cook (anymore): steak, fish, vegetarian meals, pasta, whole chickens, any kind of chicken involving skin or a bone, pheasant or any “non-traditional” meat, shrimp, and scallops. And any kind of planned side dish that involves more than steaming or roasting veggies.

Wow. Even I’m surprised by how long my list is!

So, I am raising two girls and want them to be open to new foods. But I can’t really expect them to be open to things they have never had. I decided recently that I need to be the grown-up and make foods that are outside my comfort zone. Like salmon. And steak. And eventually, I will break into more “risky” foods, but a girl has to start somewhere. 

2. Sometimes you need a formula. Everyone defines dinner differently. I define it as “protein + cooked veggie + salad + possible grain/carb.” The last one is truly optional and more of a treat.

Now for the girls, it’s  “what we are eating + something I KNOW they will eat.” I refuse to make multiple meals, but I do always make sure they have something they will eat on their plate. Sometimes it means dinner is a bread and plain Greek yogurt, but they are exposed to what we are eating. And that’s how I got G to fall in love with Indian food. For months, she ate naan and Greek yogurt and then finally decided to eat the Indian food too.

There is another formula to consider. It’s easier to meal plan for the week if you have a certain formula of meals. We usually do something grilled or roasted, something in the slow cooker, and we try to vary our meats (or non-meats). Some people have a standing pasta or pizza night. I would also say we have a standing take out or eat out night. That’s our week formula.

3. Sometimes you have to take a dose of reality. After Wednesday, I want the easiest meals possible. For some reason, I can make it through til Wednesday, then my patience is done. I want to throw a hunk of pre-seasoned meat on the grill or in the oven and call it a day. Because we eat more than meat, I stocked our freezer with organic frozen veggies from Costco. Easy veggie side: Done!

This goes along with my number one rule “Be kind to yourself.” If you know the end of the week is hard or a certain day is hard, then make the easiest thing you can. Or get take out. It won’t kill you.

4. Sometimes a meal is not the greatest thing you ever ate. As a food blogger/writer and perfectionist, this was hard at first. Now, I’m over it. Sometimes dinner is just okay and sometimes it’s not that good. But there will be more dinners and it makes us appreciate the awesome ones even more.

5. Sometimes you still need a little fun. I try to plan one “fun” meal a week. Something that I would have picked out years ago because it sounds good. Something that requires a tad more effort. And usually I do that in the beginning of the week. And I drink wine.

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Those are some of the lessons I learned in the past few years. What would you like to add?

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