Family Meal Planning: More Complicated Than Family Planning 02.27.2012

It's true.  Trying not to get pregnant and then deciding when you do want to get pregnant is a lot less involved than planning family meals week after week.  Case in point?  Today.  It is early Sunday evening as I write this, and as night nears -- along with hours of Oscar-watching ahead of me -- I have yet to make my Sunday dream come true:  plan meals for the week.  It's not a huge, nor complicated, dream, but for me, certainly difficult to achieve. 

One of my pre-or-post dinner dreams. Sigh.
For one thing, it's laborious.  It involves thinking which I just don't want to do on a Sunday, especially on a gorgeous Sunday like today. Furthermore, once you have offspring, you're not just thinking about the fabulous food you and your partner will eat, you're also thinking about your daughter who currently only is eating plain pasta with salt or corn on the cob; or your son, who is on a hunger strike, protesting what, we have no idea.  And sure, I could do some planning on Saturday or even Friday, but I'm too busy living the dream on those days.  

But with two full-time jobs, two small kids, and no staff (the horror!), planning -- and sometimes over planning -- is key.  And if the meals are planned, groceries purchased, and some prep work out of the way, life can be beautiful.  Really, truly beautiful.  We've had weeks like this so I know of what I speak:  you come home, dinner is ready, and you eat.  Then you have the rest of the evening for a walk in the neighborhood, long kiddie baths, reading, breaking up fights over dinosaur ownership, etc.  The important things.

We've had numerous evenings when we got home, dinner was not made, and instead of sitting for a bit before dinner with a glass of wine and talking or playing with the kids, we end up rushing around the kitchen, the kids rushing around us.  It's not good.  

So I'm writing publicly about my inability to make this dream come true every week as motivation. When I do plan (as I am about to do), I like to keep the meals simple.  I've been using the slow cooker to save time, and working with the kids' favorites instead of struggling to feed them what I think is interesting food when I know they -- at ages 4.5 and 2.5 -- will not eat under any circumstance.  

Here is our menu for this week:

Monday       Yellow Dal and Rice 
Tuesday       Hamburgers, Grilled Zucchini (side)
Wednesday Chicken Curry, Rice, and Curried Cauliflower (side)
Thursday     Penne with Tomatoes, Olives, Lemon, and Basil and Salad
Friday          Moroccan Chicken with Cous Cous

In the past when I've planned the week out like this, I often switch around meals depending on how much time is available to cook.  Tonight, I'll do as much prep work as I can (the Oscars often require that I sit and focus completely only on the Oscars, sooo...there's that).  This week is crazy-busy with meetings so Tuesday and Thursday are incredibly easy meals, and Monday and Wednesday are slow-cooker meals.  

I work from home most of the time so (if planned well) I'll whip up dinner while I'm having lunch; and if it's a slow cooked meal, I'll throw everything in the day before or the morning of the meal (very early in the morning).  

The other way to live this dream is to cook everything on the weekend and freeze.  I've never been able to do this.  I will freeze food and never, ever return to it.  But for people who don't have the luxury of cooking during their lunch hour, freezing is a time saver.

Have a good week everyone, and happy eating!  

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