I don’t know about you, but that question made me crazy. Food does not just appear in the Magic Fridge or on the dinner table! What do they think I do all day? Well, truth be told, I didn’t have a solid dinner plan, hadn’t taken 30 seconds all day to think about it in the busyness of work (I got stuff going on!), and knew that my poor kids were mad hungry. Hence triggered.
That was when “arsenic hour” began —- that time period between when everyone arrives home, exhausted and hungry, and when dinner arrives on the table to satiate all.
If it was up to the kids, we’d savour a rotating menu of pizza, spaghetti, burgers, chicken strips, perogies and sausage week in and week out. Over the years, I’ve tried many meal planning tricks and tips, but it all boils down to my personal determination and perseverance to do better. The Chief Menu Planner and Grocery Shopper job is relentless and unforgiving and sometimes I find it challenging to be creative, balancing nutrition, individual tastebud preferences and menu variety.
My sustainable meal prep strategy boils down to this:
- Cook on the weekends. I try to make at least one big family dinner on the weekend, usually Sunday supper, that provides leftovers for at least two meals during the week.
- Friday nights are Fun Night. We’re all pretty pooped out by Friday so we go easy on ourselves — we’ll make bacon burgers and chips, chili cheese dogs or grilled pizza night along with a movie. Everyone is happy!
- Our busiest activity night of the week is a simple supper — something the kids can help with like fettuccine or sausage on a bun along with fresh veggie sticks and dip. I always make extra for lunch the next day.
- The other nights I lean towards sheet pan dinners or one pot meals made from my “standard stock pantry” (more on that in a later post).
- My energy level for cooking waxes and wanes at times, so I’ve posted a list on the fridge of 20 family meals that everyone enjoys and can be whipped up in less than an hour. I do the same thing for lunches, particularly when the kids are home in summer and we all eat together three times a day! These are my fallback meals, recipes gleaned over the years, that again rely on my standard stock pantry. Instead of ordering takeout, we revert to these, and it seems to solve the dinner dilemma.
Admittedly, this whole cook-from-scratch -avoid-processed-food-keep the-family-healthy philosophy takes more time in the kitchen and even more time thinking, planning and shopping. And we’re not perfect – some days just don’t go as planned and we order pizza, but our goal is to cook simple recipes using the best ingredients.
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What are your fallback meal plans and strategies for healthy, enjoyable family meals? We’d love to hear from you.
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