Monday, March 28, 2016

meal planning: supersize style

by *Courtney*

meal planning... I'd be lying if I said this was my favorite thing to do. quite honestly, I don't like it. what I do like? *not* having to worry about feeding this crew!

another confession: I'm not great about following the menu. some mornings I forget that we're having a roast. then at 4pm when the kids get off the bus... I remember :|  too late. moving on to the next item on the menu! which is actually a good thing, provides some flexibility in the menu.

the biggest part about making a menu in this house is having all the ingredients to actually make a meal. weeks when I don't make a menu, I find myself running  someone Dave has to run to the grocery store far too often for one or two ingredients. Dave loves this ;) we tend to eat a lot of meat and potato meals these days/weeks. which is okay, and definitely a perk of easy access to a meat shop. BUT I really like a 'three course' meal. maybe one day I'll be that cool mom who has a fourth course and we have desserts!

for those of you who have commented interested about how this process goes down, here goes... well, some variation of how it goes. because it's almost a whole entire afternoon process around here. kids need butt wiping. toddlers fall. lunches need to be made. naps taken. and let's not leave out the meltdowns ;)


I like to prep with my calendar and phone in hand. Then I know what's going on for the week. Who will be home. Where everyone is on what days. Days where Dave won't be around to help with supper, I choose something I won't need to cut up because that's his job while I'm prepping plates ;)

I choose bigger meals like roasts or meals requiring lots of prep and help (homemade pizzas and tacos) for when I know everyone will be home. and maybe because everyone likes those meals best so it's nice to have them all together :)

I like to write my meals right in my paper calendar. I should make a list for everyone to see so I don't have to answer that question 6-7 times nightly ;) BUT I don't. it would also be a good reminder every morning. great, a new addition to my to-do list :| moving on...

right about the time I have all the meals picked and added to my planner, coffee morning is over and it's time to feed the animals. this isn't necessarily a bad thing. gives me a break and makes me not dread coming back to the meal planning.

so lunch is fed. kids are washed up. kitchen is clean(ish). it might even be naptime before I get back to the finishing touches.

next I pull out any cookbooks and recipes I think I might need. I feel like you guys are like... duh, Courtney. all of this is common sense. I apologize if it sounds like I'm making this Dummy Guide to Menu Planning. This is just my process. Take whatever you want out of it, please!

okay, so... I break my list down into sections of the store. This may seem tedious, BUT it really speeds up my grocery run. and when you have a toddler pushing her own cart and a second toddler running low on grapes... trust me, it's a good idea. you can thank me later. now, I go through my menu and write out all the ingredients I'll need for each. evennn if I think I might have the ingredients leftover or that have not been used. 

After I've gone through the whole menu and written down everyyything, I head to the pantry and frig. Anything I find that I don't need at the grocery store, I cross off my list. And I'll add anything we're running low on or any snacks to the list as well... of course in the respected grocery section ;)

I *do* make a list of meat I'll need from the shop. But rarely does that list make it to Dave. And if it does make it to him, I'm certain that list doesn't make it anywhere past the board on the way out of the house. He asks me daily what to bring home. It's a good process we've got goin ;)

Sometimes I rewrite my list so it's allll pretty and neat, but most of the time I'm finishing the list as I'm running out of the house to the grocery store. While trying to dress 2-3 children. And one usually has a dirty diaper *just* as I have everyone's coats on.

how this 'grocery run' plays out is a whole other blog post.

I thought it would be interesting for you to see some of the common meals in our home. I'm not sure why I drew a blank when I got to 14, but I wanted tho to be a solid 15. it is not. so here are the 14 top meals in our house... in no particular order....

* spaghetti

* lasagna or baked penne/layered pasta (this meal usually immediately follows spaghetti on the menu... I'm trying to be better at using leftovers. there may or may not currently be one tupperware of old spaghetti sauce in my frig. rotting.)

* Reuben's (we recently had this, but this is a once a year meal here. it's Dave's favorite, and I try to make it for his birthday meal. not sure why I'm keeping it on the list. everyone loves them though!)

* chicken alfredo (penne noodles usually. fettuccine as of late. got wild!)

* grill out: brats, hot dogs, burgers, chicken, pork chops, pork steaks, kielbasa, steaks, bacon wrapped stuffed chicken breasts... say that last one five times fast ;) (yes, they're as delicious as they sound... and we rotate these meals quite frequently throughout the summer. read: wife of a butcher)

* chili (more during the winter, obviously)

* clam chowder (again, more during the winter)

* chicken chili (recipe from a good friend. crockpot style. delicious!)

* tacos

* enchiladas (recipe from another good friend)

* homemade pizzas (almost a weekly deal)

* breakfast (extreme lazy or mom-forgot-it-was-roast-for-supper days)

* Italian sausage pasta (recipe courtesy of Dave's sister, Renee. we do a variation of this recipe because Renee's recipe is a tad spicy for the kiddos. we use Italian sausage in place of chorizo, and diced tomatoes instead of Rotel)

* zuppa toscana soup (another recipe from Renee and a house favorite. find recipe here. I should have it memorized from making it so many times, but I still go back to her website every time I make it ;)

* beef or pork roasts

bonus, thought of a couple more!
* grilled cheese sammiches and tomato soup (mostly during Lent)
* baked fish (also during Lent)
* ham+swiss paninis 

okay, my brain quit working. I cannot for the life of me think of anything else we eat...

we make a lot of substitutions throughout the planned weeks. sometimes I don't feel like making and/or eating something picked for that day so we move on to something else. if we eat something on the menu, I cross it off just so I don't have to mentally keep track of what meals we've already eaten. if I'm feeling real ambitious, I'll move things around in the calendar so I don't repeat a menu item too soon.

I wish I could say I'm really good at this meal planning bit. but in all honesty, I plan probably 1-1/2 to 2 weeks of a month. then for whatever reason, life maybe, I put off this task and then hate myself for the rest of those 2 weeks. whyyy???!!! do I do this to myself! during those 2 weeks when we do not have a solid meal plan, Dave does a lot of the cooking. we make it work. I don't love it. I'm working on it. but here's a rough idea of how the meals go for a house of 10!

hope you enjoyed. maybe learned something. feel free to email or mention how pointless this entire post was in the comments section ;) OR if you need any of the recipes, I can get you those too!

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