I recently posted this picture on Instagram of my month’s rations and got some questions that just begged for a blogpost. So we’re circling back around to meal prep.
I’ve written in the past about Meal Planning, and I’m happy to say that this strategy is standing the test of time. But before we go forward, I want to make a few notes:
- We’re just coming off of 3 months of baseball, where we spent most nights at the fields and subsisted on French fries, cheese & crackers, trail mix, and the endless candy handed out to my kids by loving adults who aren’t responsible for the dental bill. Life comes in seasons, and I’m learning to roll with them. Sure, a diet of processed foods isn’t my ideal, but I couldn’t figure out another way during the busyness of baseball.
- I’m a bit euphoric about finally cooking dinners again and eating as a family around a table rather than atop bleachers, as you can tell by the fact that I took a picture of our first meal back as a family (and with some friends!)
- With a few exceptions (because I’m not a monster and what’s Saturday morning without pancakes? And what’s pancakes without maple syrup and chocolate chips?) we adhere to a Paleo/Whole 30 diet and my menu below will reflect that.
- When it comes to feeding my family, my priorities are (1) nutritious meals that are (2) easy on the budget and (3) easy to cook. At this point, I’m not concerned about pleasing the kids at dinnertime. This is a hard one for me- all the time, money, planning & energy that I put into meals only to be greeted with grumbling and bartering at the dinner table. But we’re all working on this one, and I’m hopeful we’re making progress.
- Many of the recipes I enjoy are on my Pinterest boards and you can follow along.
- If it requires more than 30 minutes of my active time, I’m not making it. If it involves a crock pot, I’m in!
- I try to access my inner frontier woman and just deal with what’s on hand. Don’t have the fresh sage leaves called for in a recipe? Oh well. Ran out of chipotle powder? Oh well. I do NOT have the time or energy to make last-minute trips to the store for one or two ingredients. I’ll put it in my Walmart online shopping cart for next pickup. Until then, oh well.
So I’m gonna walk us through this chronologically in hopes of making this as simple as possible.
- At the beginning of each month I make my pilgrimage to The Dekalb Farmers Market. It’s a 40 minute drive and worth every second. Think of the wildest or most obscure food item. Frog legs. Shark fin. Date syrup. Pecan meal. Jackfruit. Dragon fruit. Karela. Every spice known to man. Dekalb Farmers Market sells it. And affordably!
- It’s a pretty busy, potentially overwhelming market, so I keep my shopping list simple: produce, protein, and pantry. At this point, I don’t have specific meals planned out, but I know what staples work for our diet: all forms of coconut (oil, flour, milk, cream, flakes), nut butters, nuts & seeds, all fruits & veggies, and meat. Most of my kids don’t enjoy meat, so it’s used more as a supplement rather than the star of the show. Which still looks like approximately 34 pounds of meat a month!
- After the 3-hour shopping trip, I go home and spend the next several hours organizing, portioning, freezing, and listing. Yes, this means a full day of all things food, but it pays dividends throughout the month! I”ll only have to shop for produce and missing ingredients later on, and I do this through Walmart Pickup. It’s fast, easy, and Uh.May.Zing. And I can buy eggs in cases of 4 dozen, which lasts us 2 weeks.
- Next, I make a cup of tea and start browsing Pinterest. Any new meals I want to try? What could I do with the curry I bought? Craving Thai? I pin recipes to cook throughout the month without pressure. But mostly, the dinner equation is as follows: meat + produce + a side of something fun to help the kids. Ridiculously simple.
- I cook more fragile produce first. The 5 lb bag of spinach gets worked into every meal the first 2 weeks, and things like green beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and lettuces make many appearances as well. Heartier veggies like cauliflower, cabbage, spaghetti squash, potatoes & carrots sit on the bench till second half.
I hope this is helpful so far! Now onto what this actually looks like. To do this, I’m sharing our week’s menu. Nothing fancy, I assure you.
- Breakfast every day was scrambled eggs with sautéed spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes and ground sausage. I add fruit for the kids since they don’t really enjoy eggs. I know. Crazy. I also really like this Whole30 porridge made with almond flour and have been giving it a Fall makeover by adding pureed pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove & ground ginger.
- Lunch is the last night’s leftovers and an array of fruits, veggies, nuts, almond butter and anything else I can pull out of the panty and serve tapas style.
- Dinner is actually prepped before breakfast (it’s easier to chop, dice & slice when kids are still groggy.). If I can throw it in the crockpot, great! If not, I put it back in the fridge until it’s time to cook. This week, it went like this:
Monday: Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili
Thursday: Paleo pork chops with brussel sprouts
Friday: Micah is in school Friday nights, so the kitchen is closed and the kids get pizza or something else indulgent
Saturday: Paleo buffalo wings with broccoli
Sunday: Meatsauce with spaghetti squash. One day I’ll share our family recipe (I come from a big Italian family that NEVER gathered without sauce). It’s easy and delicious. I basically make it in the morning, keep it simmering on the stove all day and serve it for all meals with a salad. Cuz Momma’s gotta rest!
So there it is. In an often complicated, exhausting season of life, here’s my current solution for keeping it simple as I keep them fed 🙂
More on this topic can be heard here from my pantry!