I am one of those moms that really enjoys cooking for her family…well, most of the time, at least.
When my boys were younger and home all day I’d start cooking early, taking my time to enjoy the process and would even include them in the prep work. Think classical music, a crisp clean apron, and a nice glass of cab.
Once school time started, though, the fresh basil infused spaghetti sauce hit the fan. I found myself stressing about what to cook, how to find time to cook it, and how to make them eat it fast enough to move along to bath time. It was like a crazed assembly line of overcooked chicken tenders and mushy broccoli, enough to give us all stomach aches.
Now in the beginning of my second academic calendar with these littles I love so dearly, I’ve gotten into a groove and dinner time is enjoyable again, even with our increasingly hectic daily schedules.
Although I admire and applaud those who can actually plan out their daily meals, I take more of an organized chaos approach to my meal planning. If you want some help making dinnertime run more smoothly but can’t commit to a weekly menu and shopping list, this post is for you.
Shopping: I normally do a big shopping trip for the week on Monday. I find I have a lot less waste this way since we eat out some over the weekend. Proteins include one big meat (a whole chicken, a brisket, something that will generate leftovers), one seafood, and one plant based protein like tofu or beans. I make most dinners heavy on the veggies so I get 6-8 different kinds making sure I have dark leafy ones (spinach, kale, chard), cruciferous ones (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels), and starchy ones (sweet potatoes, corn).
Staples: I have a few staples that I use in nearly every meal I cook so I always have these items on hand:
- Garlic (already peeled from Trader Joe’s, BIG time saver)
- Kosher Salt for all my meats
- Pink Salt for everything else
- Olive oil for low heat and salads
- Coconut oil for high heat (I buy it by the gallon on sale to save big)
- Ground black pepper (bc I don’t have time to grind)
With my staples and fresh ingredients on hand, I am ready to serve up healthy and delicious meals to my crew. There are some dishes I love to make as much as my family loves to eat them. To avoid dinner boredom I have about a two-week rotation. To do the same, you will need 6-8 go-to main courses in your repertoire.
A typical week may look something like this:
Monday: I go for quick and simple because it’s Manic Monday. Seafood is a good pick because it cooks (and spoils) quickly. Plus I feel Monday calls for a super clean boost after a weekend that MAY have included ingesting my body weight in queso. If I’m firing up the oven for the seafood (baked Salmon) I use the oven for all! Roasted veggies like brussel sprouts drizzled with honey and cauliflower sprinkled with parm are crowd pleasers. One cooking method to rule them all means less dishes and easier clean up.
Tuesday: Mama pulls out her big guns. I roast a whole chicken (much easier than it sounds, I swear), pork ribs, roast, brisket or some other big meaty goodness. These dishes take more time to cook so you have to get them in the oven early. This works well for us on Tuesdays because we have an after school activity and dinner can already be in the oven cooking before I do the drop off. Prep time is minimal and if you cook enough, you will have leftovers that will come in handy later in the week. One leafy green and a starchy veg go well with these heavy-hitting proteins.
Wednesday: We have an after school commitment on Wednesdays as well, so I usually make a slow cook meal. I can put on a pot of beans over lunch and serve up simple beans and rice. Amp the nutrients with lots of veggies and homemade stock (stockpiled in your freezer) in the pot. This is a great opportunity to slip some kale or chard into your unsuspecting child’s mouth. Finely chop and they will never know. Of course, the multitude of crock pot recipes out there would work well, too.
Thursday: This is the night when your work from Tuesday will pay off a second time. You can serve your main course again but with freshly steamed veggies like broccoli and corn on the cob. If you don’t have enough meat to go round as a main, you can repurpose that protein into a new dish. Stir fry it with veggies to serve over rice. Chop it and mix with pasta and veggies. Dice it and make tacos or tostadas.
Friday: As a general rule, I do not cook dinner on Friday night. We have a family tradition of going out on Fridays and I encourage you to do the same! If you don’t want to drag the kids out, order in. After all, you’ve earned it!
You’ve got this Master-of-Mom-Made-Meals! Tackle your school night dinner time like the boss you are and feel great feeding your family (and yourself) wholesome home cooked meals…well, most of the time, at least.