Isn't this how we all feel? Didn’t I just MAKE dinner, like four seconds ago? Dinner/menu planning is a perennial parenting problem. It's a struggle. It's the pits. It’s hard. We no likey.
And yet . . . . dinner KEEPS happening.
From a parenting/organizing perspective -here’s what I know.
1. Good nutrition (not perfect, not obsessive) IS a fabulous parenting tool. Best if we model it. Model it, people, NOT make children FIX our problems from childhood. Please see Food, Family and Fixing It for a refresher.
2. Menu planning blows and it makes the rest of our week less stressful. It’s kind of like working out, once I get going it’s usually not that bad and rewards keep coming long after the task is complete.
3. Menu plan on a different day from your shopping day. If I have to plan my menu and grocery shop on the same day I get overwhelmed and give up.
4. Look at the month and first plop in all the days we don't have to cook (so rewarding). Looking way ahead informs us of the bigger picture, "Oh yeah, our family vacation is in 10 days. I can cook a bunch this week since I have a week off soon!" Or, alternately, "I'm flying solo this week - just me and the kids - so best to stock up on prepared foods and plan to pick up pizza on Wednesday."
5. Decision making is cognitively tiring – conserve your energy and create themes for each day of the week. – here’s a sampler
Crock Pot Tuesday
Catch as Catch Can Wednesday (leftovers)
Breakfast for Dinner Thursday
Taco Night Friday
Mama’s Happy Saturday (go out to eat)
Kids Kook Sunday
6. Here are other themes to get you thinking - Chicken, Pasta, South of the Border, Italian, Fish, Stuff my Kids Will Eat for the Love of Pete, New Recipe, Off the Grill, Cereal Night, Design Your Own Dinner (again, leftovers).
7. I hear you, “My kid won’t any of this!” Picky eaters live among all of us. The deal is to cook what you want AND be sure there is something your picky eater will eat. They won't eat chili (TODAY), serve chili, but be sure to have corn bread, whole milk and carrot sticks. Think - Buddha’s Middle Way.
8. Finally – just follow the directions. If this is hard for you, please sign up for a menu planning service for 3-6 months and just do what they tell you. You won't like everything, you will be surprised by some things and you will pick up awesome habits, tips and inspiration after the 6 months. We don't need to reinvent the dinner wheel every darn night. These people are experts, they love it, their enthusiasm, wisdom and knowledge will help you. Here are two of my favs - The Six O'Clock Scramble and Saving Dinner.