The Not-A-Meal Plan

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The Dutch oven, the workhorse of our kitchen.

I love to cook. Like, twice a week and on Sundays. The rest of the time, it’s mostly a way to remind myself of what life was like before children. Slower. Tidier. Cheaper.

Recognizing that maintaining my love of cooking requires me feel less hassled by the fact that this family must be fed every single day, we’ve moved to a not-a-meal-plan system.  Meal planning that requires me to make decisions about what we are going to eat a week in advance simply don’t work for us. Like most families, we’re busy and our schedule varies. Sometimes someone has an evening meeting. Some semesters, a parent is going one night a week teaching; in the summer, it might be two. Girl Scouts meets three times a month from 6-7, right over our usual dinner time. We want friends to join us at the last minute, or we forgot about the school’s spaghetti supper until the day of.

And my biggest complaint: meal planning is one more thing to plan.

So instead of a system that locks us into particular meals, we wanted a system that:

  1. Lets us mostly work with what we have, which is what is one sale, rather than telling us what to buy. See below for our list of things we always or almost always buy–the things that make up our pantry, fridge, and freezer staples.
  2. Lets us change our mind on any given night, so that we can eat leftovers, go out, order in, try out a new recipe they saw online that day, or eat a bowl of cereal if that’s what we want. To allow for the fact that we’re going to make some bad nutritional decisions sometimes, most meals have to have vegetables (or sometimes on quiche night a fruit salad), and most of them have to be mostly plant-based.
  3. Allows who cooks to change over the course of the week so that everyone over 4 feet tall can make at least some meals.
  4. Includes at least one healthy food that each person likes, so we can tell a child who is suddenly averse to tomatoes that he can eat his pasta sauceless and enjoy as many green beans as he likes.

The final rule for our family not-a-meal-plan is that we can drop any night we want (except COTR night, described in a forthcoming post, which insures that we aren’t wasting food). If it’s chili night and we want quiche, we can. The point is that if we get stuck not being able to make a decision  (which is often the hardest part), we have a not-a-meal-plan to help us.

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