Sunday, March 1, 2015

On food and meal planning.

A few have asked me what exactly meal planning means to me and what that looks like.

While I will always prefer to plan a month’s worth of meals at a time, in general a week works better than nothing, and more often than not that is where I start.

I keep a running list of recipes that I can pull from. I have a binder of favorites organized by category that have either been printed, clipped from magazines or (gasp – the newspaper), and then a typed list of favorite recipes from cookbooks and what page and book they are in. I did all of that pre-kids lest you think I’m off my rocker. Organization is my stress reliever. It helps that I did it then, it’s been a great tool in planning meals. 

Binders are a love language of mine. I have piles of them, full of many things that I love to organize and separate into dividers and labeled tabs. (Yes, I did admit that). From family vacations, to bible studies, to baby sleep and eat schedules; if it can be separated into a category and three holes punched into it, please be assured that I’ve got it in a binder. Rest easy, my friend.

I then look through and choose from some of the recipes that I know and love, and now with the advent of Pinterest, I pin quite often. Probably too often. My Food to Eat board has quite a few recipes pinned to it. It helps me to organize the recipes digitally without having to print every single one. That’s a project for another time. Maybe even another lifetime. I also have bookmark after bookmark saved on my computer of links to recipes that have caught my eye – or stomach for that matter.  

I like to try something new every so often so once a week I’ll try to add something that’s a ‘new to me’ recipe or a new way to make a dish we eat often. For instance, baked ziti is a family favorite and my mom always made it one way, which was delicious and loved, but I was itching for a change. I used to get a subscription to Cooking Light (which I utilized to its fullest) and had pulled a variation of the recipe from there and loved the change. Sometimes you just need to tweak a recipe to liven up the monotony.

We do run the gamut on taste buds in these parts. From a one year old who will eat absolutely anything you put in front of her to a young man who pretty much refuses to eat anything unless you can add ketchup on top (though admittedly he is getting better). My mom has gone gluten free in the past few years and that adds another dimension to the cooking. Though most times I do adapt the recipe or choose something that is inherently gluten free, there are nights when I don’t (um, hello pasta) and she either makes something separate or eats a later, fuller lunch. 

My food philosophy isn’t rigid. I prefer organic but it’s incredibly expensive when feeding eight people. We eat meat (all the kinds), though I try to vary the recipes so it’s not a meat-heavy week. I find this much easier in the summer months when vegetables are so abundant and so darn good. I love the good stuff; real butter, real sugar, real cheese. I just try to use them in moderation. I’ve just started incorporating a beans and rice meal once a week or so to help with the cost of the grocery bill. 

I was raised on the stereotypical protein, veggie, and starch plate breakdown. I find that I do still stick to this ratio be it right or wrong. We have our main course with a vegetable and starch (rice, potato, or bread) and almost always a salad. 

The variation of food etiquette is also plenty at our table. My dad was raised that salad is a dessert, for after the meal – and growing up that is almost always how I ate salad, after our meal was complete. My husband was raised that salad was the first course of the meal, and so he will always eat his salad first while everyone else is eating the main course at the table. We accept all kinds here.

Dessert was never a mainstay growing up either (it was salad) and so we never eat dessert as a family at the table, unless it is a special occasion. 

Even though I say I use a recipe for everything, don’t be fooled. That doesn’t mean I’m making some elaborate thing every night for dinner, in fact it’s usually quite the opposite. Whatever can get prepared the quickest and easiest usually wins out. This was last week’s meal plan so you can see what I mean:

Monday – Red beans & rice
Tuesday – Chicken Cilantro Sandwiches
Wednesday – Eggs and pancakes (we have chickens and eggs are a great fallback meal/easy option when I know we have an extra dozen or so in the fridge)
Thursday – Beef stroganoff
Friday – Tacos
Saturday – Turkey burgers
Sunday – Pulled pork sandwiches

Food is a common denominator among us and I think that is why I find it so fascinating; learning how others prepare meals for their family and what that means to them. I have found great purpose in providing for my large family in this way. It’s intentional when I meal plan and think about each meal that week, who will enjoy it, and who may turn up their nose at the meal. When the day comes I’m at ease because I know what to expect and how to prepare my day best. Dare I make the proverbial pun, it’s my recipe for success.

1 comment:

Jase and Melissa said...

Thanks for sharing your trade secrets :)