My meal plans have always been pretty organized, but lately I’ve been focusing on simplicity (keeping in mind that I’m striving for healthy foods, variety, and no trash), because as much as I love my kitchen, simplifying meals has allowed me to spend less time in it. I’ll definitely go big when I want to (homemade pasta with the kids in the summer, everything from scratch for Thanksgiving, and elaborate birthday cakes twice a year) but on a daily basis, I want to get in, get out, and get on with my life.
This school year I’ve been trying a new meal plan, which is the key to smooth grocery trips, painless school lunches, and a successful Near-O Waste kitchen. This chart shows my kids’ day time meals:
- When I make overnight oats on Tuesday (for Wednesday’s breakfast), I double the batch and fill jars for Thursday’s lunch.
- When I make smoothies, I fill three glass jars and freeze them for Tuesday’s lunch.
- I make 48 muffins every three months and freeze them (4 per jar). Every Monday, I pull out a jar for lunches.
- I use the same containers for PB&Js all week (storing them empty in the fridge when it’s not a PB&J day).
- I use the same containers for (dry) snacks all week.
- I train my kids to put their lids back on, lick their silverware clean, and compost their peels and cores at school so lunch bags stay semi “low-mess”.
- On Fridays we go out for an after school snack with our zero waste gear.
To simplify dinners, I whittled my old 6-week menu down to a monthly menu containing 13 different meals. I cook on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, with leftovers (ahh…) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Saturday, we eat what we can find. The menu changes based on what’s local and in season (I love to make panzanella in the summer when heirlooms are available!). I often try new recipes over the summer or on school breaks to see if they’re worthy of our kids’ approval. Our list of dinners usually looks something like this:
- Grass-fed beef hotdogs
- Mac and cheese with salad (homemade sauce and dressing)
- Pasta with red sauce and salad (homemade sauce and dressing)
- Fish tacos (homemade tortillas, fresh caught, local-as-possble fish)
- Nachos with grass fed ground beef
- Bean and cheese burritos (homemade tortillas; the other half of the batch I made for tacos)
- Takeout Pizza (on the one night per month I work late)
- Pizza toast with veggie toppings
- Sandwiches (egg salad or deli)
- Rice and stir fry veggies
- Peanut noodles with carrots and green beans
- Fried rice with eggs and veggies
- Breakfast for dinner (overnight french toast, pancakes, or eggs and toast)
Whatever your favorites may be, plug them into a schedule and make your shopping lists accordingly. With a meal plan to rely on, you won’t ever have to fret about what to prepare for your family.