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How To Make An Easy Family Meal Plan And Stop Lazy Eating

I grew up with a mostly stay-at-home mom (or “homemaker” as she was called back then) who made three square meals and a snack every day for my sister, my dad and me. Every once in a while, we’d go out for dinner; I also recall a regular Friday night Burger King outing (Mmmm, onion rings); we also ordered in the occasional pizza.

There were no TV dinners or microwave meals. The most my sister and I could hope for were pre-made Chicken Kiev patties with white rice that my parents fed us when they were going out to dinner before the babysitter came. Fast-forward to my life at the same age and stage.

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There is a lot of take-out (or order-in, since New York is teeming with delivery places), go-out and frozen pizza. Judging from the ever-expanding American waistline, I don’t think we are alone. No matter how much butter you cook with, it will almost always pale in comparison to the amount in restaurant food. Every now and then, I regale my husband with declarations of how we are going to cook more, have an easy family meal plan and eat healthier. Usually I start with a bang, but my commitment soon wanes. Part of the problem is that I’m a pasta-and-green-vegetables-with-olive-oil kind of gal, while my husband is a meat-potatoes-and-Sriracha kind of guy. As a result, he inevitably balks at my last minute “go-to” meals. This year, however, I finally hit upon some meal-planning tips that are helping us overcome the inertia of lazy eating. Here’s how:

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1. Get a large refrigerator magnet, either blank or with the week already sketched out. Something about writing it down makes follow-through easier.

2. Each weekend, sit down with your significant other and look at the calendar for the week (or two). Who is out when? Who is coming home late on which day?

3. Plan which days you will cook and put them on your shared calendar. (We use Google calendar)

4. Plan what you will make on those days and write it on the refrigerator magnet. At the same time, make a list of ingredients you need to buy.

5. Make your life easier. Use an online grocery delivery service to buy the bulk of the ingredients, especially non-perishables and heavy items.

6. Stop by a grocery store to buy fresh/organic produce no more than two or three days before you plan to cook the meal.

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Additional meal-planning tips:

  • Consider making “quick” meals or slow-cooker meals on days when you are pressed for time.
  • Be creative for picky eaters who “don’t like leftovers”: use Monday’s chili to make burritos on Wednesday.
  • If one person does most of the cooking, have the other person choose a day to make a meal. Give your significant other a chance to cook f or you! You both may be surprised.
  • There are recipe and food blogs galore these days, but you can also keep it simple and use AllRecipes.com. Save your favorite recipes in a folder for when you are fresh out of ideas.
  • Treat yourself to take-out and go-out every now and then. Maybe it’s the same day every week or maybe you mix it up. Deprivation will derail you.

Good luck! How do you plan your meals?

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Debra Cole
Debra Cole is a writer and mom of two based in New York. Her work has been published at such sites as Brain Child Magazine, Scary Mommy, The Mid and In the Powder Room. She blogs about modern parenting with a side of humor at Urban Moo Cow.
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