Friday, May 20, 2016

Meal Planning + Weekly Meal Ideas + Grocery Shopping

Happy Friday!  Today I am answering a request from a reader wanting to know how I meal plan and grocery shop. 

I have to say I love to cook and I actually love to grocery shop too (especially when I am kid free).   My happy place is truly in the kitchen with a glass of wine cooking.  That being said I do not cook everyday, who has time for that with small kids?  I do cook 2-3 times a week.  The other days we eat leftovers and on Fridays we always order food usually pizza or Thai food.   

I am not the best about planning out meals in advance and grocery shopping for the week.  I would say I go to the store several times a week however I do make my big run for the week on withe Sunday or Monday morning.  If I go Sunday Matt usually watches the kids or if I don't make it Sunday I will go Monday after I take Frances to school.  Grocery shopping with two whiney kids is never easy so I try to do it alone.  If I make a quick run during the week I usually do this when both kids are in school or occasionally we all go after we pick Sterling up from school.

As far as meal planning I usually flip through my cookbooks on Sunday and try and get a vague idea of what I want to cook that week.  I love to cook a big Sunday dinner.  It is a nice way to wind down from the weekend and all sit down as a family and eat.

This week's menu was:

SUNDAY- Black bean cakes + Squash Casserole
MONDAY- Gnocchi and Vodka Sauce (I bought this from the Farmers Market, I always pick up their pasta and keep it in the freezer for quick weeknight meals) + leftover squash casserole
TUESDAY- Garden Veggie Pie + green peas
WEDNESDAY- Leftover Garden Veggie Pie 
THURSDAY- Fish Tacos + black beans + street corn

I can't tell you how often I get the question what do your kids eat?  Do they eat the same thing as Matt and I?  90% of the time yes they eat what Matt and I are having for dinner.  I try hard not to cook a separate meal for them.  Now sometimes I will serve the meal in a different way like if I make a chopped salad I leave the lettuce off their plates and just do the toppings they will eat. 

  Do they complain?  Always.  Most nights Sterling sits down and exclaims this all looks gross I am not eating.  To which we reply fine then you may go straight to bed and then usually he changes his mind.

  Sterling as much as he complains has turned into a pretty good eater and now Frances is my picky one.  If they do not eat their dinner they do not get anything else to eat and trust me they go to bed hungry often.  Sterling is old enough that I will offer him dessert if he eats a certain portion of his dinner and that usually inspires him to eat.  Frances is harder these days and very stubborn.  She is going thru a phase where she likes no veggies and just wants to eat fruit.  

If I have an event or I am going out and not cooking that night I will usually cook something frozen for them like chicken nuggets or fish sticks, or pick up sushi.  As far as frozen foods go I usually only buy the Morning Star, kidfresh and Amy's products for them.  I know they are are processed too but they are not quite as bad as other brands.

Matt is the only true meat free person in our house and he is a pescatarian.   He will eat fish and shellfish just no meat of any kind.  The kids and I do still eat meat although I don't really eat red meat anymore.  I do still eat my beloved bacon and chicken occasionally .  The kids eat everything although I don't cook with much meat anymore. Sterling will sometimes ask for beef tacos so when he does I make Matt and I fish tacos and cook a small batch of red meat for him.   I also pick up a rotisserie chicken sometimes and shred that for them.  Now that I don't meat that often I don't ever crave it so really the only time I eat it when I am out to eat.

I have a few items I always buy each week at the grocery store to have on hand for easy lunches and dinners.

Rao's Marinera (great with the Trader Joe's ravioli)
cherry tomatoes
baby cucumbers
chick peas
dried beans
pimento cheese
salami and or pepperoni
Ravioli and or fresh pasta (I buy this at the Farmer's Market but Trader Joe's has some great ravioli)
canned salmon 

Depending on what I am making I usually start cooking while Frances naps in the afternoon and Sterling is still at school between 1-2:30.   That is when I do most of my prep work or if it is something like enchiladas or a casserole I assemble the entire dish.  If it requires more work and cooking time after that I start up again at 5-5:30.  I usually bathe the kids by 5, I like an early bath time and dinner.   Then after bath I let them watch a tv show while I finish up dinner.

I would say maybe 3 nights a week Matt is home in time to eat with us.  The other nights when he works a little later I sit down and eat with the kids usually by 6.   They are like vultures starting around 5 wanting snacks, telling me how hungry they are and starving so I try and serve them dinner early.  I am usually hungry by then anyways so even if Matt is not home I sit down and eat with them.  I think it is nice to sit down, say a blessing together and chat about their days.

I wanted to round up a few easy week night meals.
A few go-to's that are not pictured are Ravioli, veggie plate- I usually do something like roasted broccoli, slow cooked dried beans and mac and cheese, sushi, and salmon cakes.

I make this dish at least once a month.  I love it and the kids will usually eat it. 

We do tacos at least one night a week.  Our new favorite are these Shrimp Tacos although sometimes we sub flounder or mahi for the Shrimp.  I usually prep all the ingredients like the salsa and cabbage before hand so then at dinner time all we have to do is cook the shrimp or fish.

These are great because you can assemble them ahead of time and just keep in the fridge til you are ready to cook them.  I also make these Salmon cakes frequently too.

I alway love enchiladas because you can assemble the whole dish ahead of time.   I also like this black bean version and these beef ones.

These are fairly quick to assemble and so tasty!

We used to make these all the time back when Matt still ate meat.  Super simple and full of flavor.

You can stuff and assemble these ahead of time and then just bake.  They one of my favorite vegetarian meals.   I also like this version with broccoli and gouda.

I always love a chopped salad for dinner.  You can chop everything and have it ready to at dinner all you have to do is toss everything together.  
Happy Cooking!


steph said...

Thanks for much for all these great ideas and for answering my email this week. I love to cook too. I'm always looking for easy and healthy recipes so keep them coming. I know you've done them before, but would love to see more of your daily eats.

Julie said...

I love all your recipes :)

Brittany said...

Does Matt not eat meat out of preference? I'm slowly eating less and less meat. I'm more interested in vegetarian options especially the ones like you create!

Kindly Kentucky said...

Thanks for sharing a several great weeknight recipes! I'm definitely going to make the Southern Cobb Salad next week. Happy Friday! xo Laura

Megan said...

Thanks so much for running through this! I feel like I spend so much time trying to think of what to cook, grocery shopping and actually cooking that I love seeing how other people do it and get inspired!

Alexandra Bee Blog said...

Love hearing how other people manage cooking! We just tried Blue Apron for the first time this week and really enjoyed the convenience of it...I also really liked that there was no food waste!

hhmommy said...

Thank you for this! I love your meal ideas. Healthy and practical. I too struggle with the drama filled protests from kids, glad I am not alone! Love your blog! Love that you share these little struggles :)

hhmommy said...

Can you share your favorite or go to recipe books? Thanks!

Lauren Corbett said...

Such yummy meal ideas . . . definitely going to try the enchiladas!

Kelly said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this!! I always love your cooking posts. It's so easy to get into a rut and I love having new ideas. I bought Chrissy Teigen's cookbook on your recommendation and I love it!! I just made her chicken lettuce wraps last night and they are amazing!! You have to try them if you haven't yet. Also, just to give you a little encouragement- My kids used to act exactly the same way as yours about food when they were little. I have always loved to cook and have never believed in making a different dinner for my kids. I now have three teenagers who will try just about anything and are very healthy eaters. I seriously asked for McDonald's for Mother's Day this year because no one in my house ever wants to eat it.

emilytrochelman said...

Your chicken cakes are a family favorite here. They freeze well too! I have some stashed away for when I have my baby soon. It makes for a super easy and quick weeknight meal.

Unknown said...

I think I just pinned all these recipes, so delicious. Thanks so much for sharing, this is such a great resource. Can't wait to make my first tomato pie of the summer!

Erin, Attention to Darling