Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Weekly Meal Planning Switch Up

Meal planning is a must for us! Like many two parent households, we are two working parents with kids activities and our own things each evening of the week. We do a good job of reserving weekends for family time, but that doesn't keep the rest of the week from being busy. With daycare and after school kids, having a well stocked refrigerator/cupboards/pantry 24/7 is another must.

Typically, each Saturday morning I set aside thirty minutes to create a weekly menu and shopping list. This mainly requires me to look at our schedule for the upcoming week, take any activities or events into consideration, ask my family if they have any requests, listen to them say "ummmm....I don't know" for far too long, then decide everyone will just eat what I want if they don't come up with anything. For the most part this works. My minis aren't picky and will eat nearly anything I set in front of them. They willingly went 95% vegan with me for an entire year and continue to eat vegan/vegetarian 3-4 days a week because, well, I make the menu.

This weekend I didn't feel like spending my Saturday morning in this same fashion. Instead, I tried something else. I took all five of us to Trader Joe's and had them pick out their favorite foods. The youngest mini picked mainly snacks, the oldest picked a lot of veggies, and the middle one picked a lot of frozen meals. I said no to a few items, but for the most part, I let them pick and choose what we ate for the week. This worked surprisingly great! It required me to make a menu on the fly in my head....which means this little experiment could have gone very wrong quickly. Somehow it worked out quite well.

Once we got home, I made our Sunday - Thursday (Thursday is a new grocery shopping day for us, so I typically do a smaller grocery run Thursday's for Friday, Saturday, Sunday) menu as I looked over the food we bought. I made note of a few items I knew we'd need, but all in all, the minis actually did a great job of picking out food and I had very little "extras" I needed to order for delivery.

I get that we're only on day one for the week, but meal planning went crazy smooth for the week. I wound up spending less on my weekly groceries than I usually do: only $75 at TJ's for all of the fresh veggies, cooking/baking supplies, canned goods, cheeses, soyrizo (like chorizo but vegan), and some frozen meals for our crazy Wednesday nights plus an additional $50 for extra veggies, fruits, our fave tortillas, etc. To give you a rough idea, I spend anywhere from $150-$250 per week for groceries for our family, daycare, and extras to have on hand when neighbors and friends find themselves at our house. In addition to spending less money, we also are trying some new meals. For breakfast four of us enjoyed shakshouka (the youngest mini participated in the eggs, but nothing else). The boys have claimed it's their new favorite. Dinner was a "sheet pan meal" with all fresh veggies and free range chicken tossed in olive oil and Everything But The Bagel Seasoning with a side of cous cous. No one complained about meals once because it was everything they picked.

Shakshouka on toast. Typically I would serve this with pita bread, but we didn't grab any so whole wheat toast worked just fine.

I don't anticipate doing this type of thing every weekend....in fact, looking ahead at our calendar, we'll have time to grocery shop like this the second weekend of March. Every other weekend is full and fuller. However, it's nice to know I can do this with my family and they'll actually help with the meal planning. The minis claimed it was because they could actually see the food they wanted. They actually made note of a few other foods/meals they'd like to try out next week (I'm going to guess this means Mom will be making a night trip to Trader Joe's next week to get groceries). I'll have to keep this meal planning switch up in mind when I find us eating the same meals over and over again or if I get fed up making the weekly menus week after week.