Meatless Monday: The Schedule

Hi! How are we this week? Let’s just act like every thing’s normal (and Michael at least *is* back to normal), and plow on ahead with What Else I am Trying to Keep My Sanity During the School Year.

On my post about the kids’ schedule, there were a couple of food-related suggestions that I am taking under consideration. I’m playing around with a very simplified menu plan. I hate getting to quitting time and wondering what I’m going to give my children for dinner when we get home. I decided that had to make changes in a concrete way.

Here is the (still being tweaked) schedule so far.

Monday: Pasta
Tuesday: Rice/Ethnic (tacos are big)
Wednesday: Brinner OR Mac & Cheese, Veg Baked Beans, and/or Notdogs
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Sandwiches (and Soup, sometimes)
Saturday: Pizza (preferably with homemade crust)
Sunday: Slow Cooker/Comfort Food

Meals are usually a main dish, a protein (beans, nuggets, or the like), and a vegetable and/or salad.

If a child doesn’t want what I am serving, she is welcome to something else, as long as she can make it herself. She has to try at least one bite of dinner first. So far, this has worked out well.

I need to remember to cook more food — my kids are growing, and consuming more, plus I like to have different things to pack in their lunches. In additon, I am counting on having leftovers at least one night (Thursday is CSA pickup night, and we usually don’t get home until nearly 6 p.m.).

I am learning to incorporate tricks and tools into my meal planning as well. For example, my rice steamer has a timer on it. I just put the rice (or other grain) in, pour in the liquid, and set the timer. When we get home, we have the base of our Tuesday meal. On Mondays, I usually boil the pasta in the morning as we’re getting ready. Soup is something I make ahead of time (usually on a Saturday or Sunday), and freeze half of. At this point, I have nearly a month’s worth of soup in my freezer (corn chowder, lentil, and tomato so far)!

Another meal type that will make the rotation, especially as spring and soccer roll around is a cold-type or picnic meal (h/t Kim Z., aka @observacious) that we can eat at the park or soccer field as needed.

Having a general menu plan like this helps me so much. I hate meal planning, and I hate not having a meal plan. Instead of reinventing the wheel every week, this gives me a template to work from. Pasta can be penne with marinara sauce, or tortellini with vegetable balls; Tuesday can be rice with beans or soy crumbles with taco seasoning in burritos. And cooking a lot on the weekends (as happens, depending on our weekend activities) takes a lot of pressure off when soup or leftover night rolls around!

What do you do to make cooking easier for you?

15 thoughts on “Meatless Monday: The Schedule

  1. Did I ever give you my potato leek soup recipe? No dairy, and you could sub the chicken stock in it for veg stock. It’s simple to make and freezes like a dream.

  2. Oo! I just had another make ahead thought. I have a recipe for stuffed shells that’s vegetarian and meant to go in the freezer to be pulled out and heated later. It makes a lot so you can divvy it up into the portions you want. It’s a little work intensive but it’s something you could do as a weekend meal, eat some then, and then have it again another week.

  3. One thing I learned from my parents is to devote some time every few months to cooking and freezing. I usually dedicate a Saturday every few months to making about 5 different soups in large quantities, and then freezing them in meal sized quantities. One day a week is always soup night (although I am currently soupless, and need to fix that), and it’s easy peasy to get the soup out in the AM and have it defrosted by dinner time. 10 minutes on the stove and dinner is ready. It sort of sucks to lose a whole saturday to cooking, but it totally pays off in the saved time one day a week for 4 months. I have a fantastic, hearty, vegetarian pasta fagiole recipe that freezes wonderfully if you want it :;-)

    My parents also used to cook double or triple quantities of a lot of recipes, eat some of it that night and then freeze the extra. It’s really no extra work to triple a recipe, and that’s that many fewer meals to cook from scratch later. They did this with casseroles, usually. For some reason, this isn’t something I’ve been able to get the hang of, and I probably should. I do tend to cook double recipes and then have 2 days or more of leftovers out of it. But that’s easier since we’re only feeding 2 people not 5.

    But in general, meal planning will be your savior all around. I know it sucks. I hate doing it but it’s worth it during the week when I know I have everything I need in the fridge for dinner, and between leftovers and soup nights, i usually only have to do any actual cooking two nights during the week. sometimes even fewer nights if I make ‘big salads’ or raid the freezer for frozen french fries, pierogies, and chicken strips.

    • I am going to need a bigger freezer. I am good with soups and sauces; I have frozen lasagna with good results — and that’s about it! And please send that pasta fagiole recipe! My kids love that! I really have to start picking and choosing when to cook and when to do other things on the weekends. I can easily lose a whole naptime in the kitchen. I love it, but I do have other things to attend to!

    • I usually use the one at the Smitten Kitchen, but the one from that site looks simple too! Kate loves to help me make the dough, and yes, all the kids like to have their own personal pizza!

  4. I have a love-hate relationship with meal-planning. Like you, I’m not a fan of reinventing the wheel every week but having some sort of idea of what we’re having does make the whole what’s-for-dinner craziness easier. We had a “pasta night, taco night, etc.” sort of system about a year or so ago, and I need to get back to doing this. (Thanks for the reminder. 🙂 I think it will help with the grocery bills, too.

    • Meal planning definitely helps with the budget in a couple of ways. For one, it leads to fewer impulse buys at the grocery store, and for two, it leaves me much less likely to resort to eating out or picking up take-out. This is the first time I’m trying this system, but I think it’s going to work for me and the kids. I expect as we continue it, they will have requests and favorite meals. I think routine gives kids a sense of security, even when it comes to dinner!

  5. Ever since the kids were old enough to have a preference we have let them pick out 1 meal each a week, and they usually wanted something simple so that made it easier and we always have a “thank you bite” out of gratitude for all the effort that went into raising and cooking it. At 17 and 16, they still know the drill and if they want something more complicated it has to be on a weekend and they have to help. Kristen, my pickiest, loved pad Thai. I had picture recipe books for theem to choose from. I should send you our favorites; its harder to get them hone for dinner than it is to eat it. We also have veggies for dinner a lot. Green beans, corn and tomatoes are Yummy and filling.

    • As the kids get older, that’s something I plan to incorporate, too. Kate loves working in the kitchen — she’s so interested in cooking. It’s one reason I continue to cook. It’s the way I grew up, and I learned my way around a cookbook because that’s how my mom cooked. I want to give that gift to my children, too! And veggies for dinner is popular here, too. Flora especially loves green beans and corn, although raw tomatoes aren’t popular yet!

  6. You probably are smart enough to figure this out, but in addition to not requiring cooking time, I like to do the cold meals so that there is no prep time that night. Make as much as you can the night before. Those meals usually don’t take long to prep, but even 10 minutes tends to be precious in that post-work/pre-bedtime window.

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