Thursday, October 4, 2018

Feeding a Family: Part 2

I'm back with the 2nd part of my Feeding a Family series. In my last post I talked about the challenges of getting meals on the table; in this post I will talk about my solution. Our solution isn't anything revolutionary - I've just come up with a couple of systems/approaches to simply things and reduce the mental load of meal planning.


Planning


Because I sometimes struggle and feel overwhelmed by coming up with meal ideas, I'm using a "thematic" approach to meal planning. This helps guide my recipe search. Each week I need to make one recipe to bring for lunch and 3 recipes for dinners. Since I'm just cooking for 2 people, 3 dinners is plenty to last us through the week as we both like leftovers and Phil is fine with eating cereal one night a week if we don't have leftovers in the fridge.


I'm currently making a soup or chili to bring for lunches each week. I used to eat salads every day but in this current stage of life, salads are just too much work as there is a lot of slicing and dicing. I like that I can make a soup or chili and portion it out into 4 containers. That way I'm just grabbing a container in the morning versus assembling a salad each night. I know you can make salads ahead of time if you put the toppings at the bottom and the lettuce on top but I still feel like the lettuce gets a little "icky" by the fourth day.


For the 3 dinners, my current themes are tacos, stir fries, and curries. I don't intend to keep these themes indefinitely. They will change as we get sick of the themes but this at least gives me a starting point.


I then use my bullet journal to plan out the meals for the week. Again this is just a framework and helps me figure out what days I will make meals and what days we will have leftovers. Things definitely get shifted around depending on what is going on that night but it helps to have an idea of which nights I will be cooking.





Execution


I try to have all the recipes nailed down by Thursday night so I can start making a grocery list. Right now I do our grocery shopping on Saturday mornings when Paul is down for his nap. I'm considering trying a grocery delivery service as it would be nice to use the ~hour I spend grocery shopping doing meal prep but I haven't decided on a service to use yet and I'm concerned that the produce will be disappointing. But this is something I want to experiment with this winter.


Ideally, I would grocery shop and do as much meal prep (slicing and dicing) on Saturday and Sunday so that meals come together quickly on week nights. This past weekend we had a friend visiting so I did not do any meal prep and had to squeeze it by grocery shopping on Monday night and doing meal prep on Tuesday night. For the coming week I'm making stuffed pepper soup in the instant pot for lunches later in the week + over the weekend, and for dinners I'm making Indian butter chicken and potato curry in the instant pot and chicken and vegetable stir fry. I'm only making 2 dinners this week as we had some leftovers from last weekend and are going to grill another night this week.


The next step is to scan the recipes and figure out what you can do ahead of time. For this week's meals, I chopped up all of the chicken and vegetables, except the potatoes for the curry. Not pictured is the 3 cups of brown rice that I made in the instant pot for the stuffed pepper soup.




Now I have labeled baggies of items all set to go which should make meal prep pretty quick - especially since 2 of the recipes are instant pot recipes so require very little active time.


Future Enhancements


I received a lot of great suggestions in the comments from my last post that I want to incorporate in the future. For example, I'd like to set aside one weekend a month to make something for the freezer.


***


So there you have it - there's nothing revolutionary or novel in this approach but it's a system that we are going to experiment with. It will change as our evenings change. Eventually I'll probably have to make more than 3 dinners a week, especially when Paul starts to stay awake longer and eats meals with us. But for now, this system works!

7 comments:

Lori Honeycutt said...

I wish I could be as organized as you are! I met with the nutritionist several weeks ago and this type planning is exactly what I should be doing. I just struggle to think this far ahead. Perhaps because my schedule is already so crazy busy. Everything sounds so delicious! I would say that you will overall be very happy with the grocery service and those I know who go this route have had very few complaints. Usually they try to fix whatever is not satisfactory and they want you to be happy with everything!

Marlys said...

Your organization impresses me! I do try to make meals on weekends that I can use through the week, also, as it sure is easy to come home from work and know there's a meal ready to heat up. Your Dad is super easy to please, too, and will eat leftovers without a wince.
I cleaned out my garden this week and have so many green peppers that I'm going to use your recipe for stuffed pepper soup! It sounds so good, and I love my instant pot. I am now bringing it back & forth from the lake so I can use it both places.

Stephany said...

This sounds so ideal! I really need to invest in an Instant Pot because there are so many meals I can't make because I'm either out of the house too long during the day to use my slow cooker or I don't have enough time in the evening.

katielookingforward said...

Hooray for leftovers!!

Amber said...

Oh yes, making some freezer meals is a great idea. I actually just pulled out a turkey chili that Eric made 2 or 3 months ago to eat this week and I just thawed out a serving of veggie lasagna that I made 2 weeks ago to have for dinner tonight. When we do freezer meals we also freeze them in individual serving sizes.

Gracie said...

Right now, we cook five to six nights a week (Sunday night is takeout-and-documentary night, and we often have an invitation somewhere Saturday) plus weekend lunches. For weekday lunches, we eat leftovers, and I do also make side salads that I take every day. I make sure when I make our menu that I plan meals in such a way that we will have enough leftovers for the two of us to eat each night, and I also plan a few breakfast choices for work mornings. Sometimes I make breakfast sandwiches that can just be microwaved, or prepare yogurt and fruit, etc. I make our menus and shopping list on Sunday with the help of the sale ads, and then I shop on Tuesday night on the way home from track practice (and yes, that means I get home at around ten that night!).

I cook all the meals except Tuesday, when I'm at track - I leave David clear instructions and usually do some prep work for him. So far it's been edible...

For some reason, I'm not enamored with meal prep. I get home pretty late, but still, the only thing I really prep is breakfast and my lunch salads. I will do some multi-meal prep, though - like if I roast eggplant for pasta sauce, I'll roast extra and make a marinaded eggplant salad and stick it in the fridge for another dinner. I could really work on doing better with meal prep, though.

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

This is a great plan, and you are very organized getting all the meat and veggies prepped and bagged in advance. We've been trying to use our slow cooker more. The other night we threw all the ingredients for Mediterranean chicken into the ceramic part of the slow cooker, and put it in the fridge. The next day Christopher just had to take it out of the fridge, and turn it on at lunch, and we came home to a delicious dinner (just added rice). That made for a really quick and easy dinner.