Planning meals for my family has been infinitely more difficult than planning for my children’s education this year.
I know my kids, I know how they learn, and we’ve acquired enough books and supplies for a small army here. :) The education-planning part has gotten easy for me.
Yet, no matter how many books on nutrition I read – and I’ve read dozens – I just can’t find any certitude in my continually-evolving nutrition beliefs. I just want us all to feel strong and energetic (instead of groggy with rashes and belly aches like some of us do some of the time.) For every ingredient I go through an insane mental conversation, for example:
Should I buy raw milk or pasteurized, and whole or skim? From Walmart or a farmer? (Walmart it closer.) Purchased in glass or plastic? What is a good price to pay? (Raw is twice as much.) And how much should we have each day? Or should I eliminate it altogether, would that help us feel better?
I have gotten to the point, on several occasions this year, where the task of meal-planning seemed so daunting and overwhelming that I would put it off and let it weigh me down for the whole day or longer. This interesting post on why you shouldn’t meal-plan has some valid points.
I knew some changes had to be made this summer, and I knew I had to get it done before school starts up again. The imperfect knowledge that is inherent to this world is hard for me to accept. I know I have done my share of research – The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Real Food, More-With-Less, Wild Fermentation, Nourishing Traditions, Wheat Belly, and dozens of others. I know that every family has a different food budget and access to different ingredients and different culinary skills and interest. I decided to make a list of my basic nutritional ideals for my family, which are here if you are interested:Family Nutritional Goals
I decided to get a lot more strict with myself in following these guidelines, and more strict with my kids for eating what I fix and when it’s ready. (Which is another change in our aging family; I believe infants and toddlers simply need to eat when they are hungry and not according to the clock. Now that my “baby” is 4, we’re all old enough to eat at more predictable times.) Most of our meals are going to repeat each week. Variety is going to be less important, and consistency will be more important from here on out. I’m going to stop apologizing for the lack of unending “novelty” and focus more on being grateful for the abundance we have. Here’s a list of our basic, repeating meals for now – of course these can be changed as desired each week and season to season:Our Current Repeating Meals
Here’s a blank chart if you’d like to print one out for your own planning!Blank Chart for Repeating Meals
So each week when it’s time to get groceries, 90% of the meals are already planned for me, and I have had incredible peace of mind, despite knowing that I could be wrong about nutrition specifics; I’m okay with that, because I know I’ve done as much research as could be expected of anyone.
Previous posts about meals:
When I find a good deal at the grocery store, I’ll rotate in a meal to use that item. (The menu above, for example, was planned after a relative had given us ground sausage from his farm.) Every few months I’ll rotate in our favorite seasonal meals. I read this fun book cover-to-cover and hope to rotate in some of these recipes also:
Since I began this system, I’ve had more time, for everything. More gratitude. Better meals, together. Now I can move on with my life and enjoy my final preparations for the new school-year – which I’ll post about soon! How about you? What are your best tips for meal-planning?