Planning Meals (or, trying not to cook the same thing every week)

5 years ago

In answer to a few questions I've received about meal planning...I have a confession to make. Meal planing is not my strong point. Seriously, it's a challenge every week. Breakfasts are usually some combination of yogurt, fruit, toast, smoothies, pancakes, cereal, eggs. We rotate through the same snacks and lunches (PB&J, fruit, cheese slices, hummus and veggies, nuts and dried fruit).

Dinner is more challenging. Each weekend when it's time to go to the store, my husband and I look at each other and say:

"So, what do you want to eat this week?"

"I don't know, what do you want to eat?"

That's really how it goes. He usually has a suggestion or two and I write down what he wants to cook and freeze for lunch at work. Then I get online and start looking for inspiration--otherwise we'd eat the same thing for dinner every single week: tacos, pizza, salad, some sort of get the idea. Since I'm currently gluten-free it's really, really easy for me to fall into the habit of cooking the same things over and over again.

Lately I've been trying to be better about trying new recipes. I've also been trying to prepare more food in advance so I have a little stockpile in my freezer. Instead of planning for five dinners a week and left-overs, I'm planning six or seven dinners and freezing as much as I can. These meals are handy on the days I'm feeling especially pregnant and have a hard time getting dinner on the table. My grand plan is to have a freezer full of meals by the time the baby arrives.

Where do I go for inspiration? Here are a few of the sites I use regularly. If you don't eat a gluten-free diet, don't be scared away by all the gluten-free sites. Most of them I discovered before I was gluten-free!   

A Year of Slow Cooking has gluten-free crock-pot recipes. Many of them could easily be non-gluten-free if you're so inclined. All the recipes I've tried have been quick and easy. Sometimes we like them and sometimes we don't. However, her Chile Verde recipes is one of my favorites.

Elana's Pantry is also gluten-free. Mostly I use her site for desserts and baking. We made these cinnamon bun muffins yesterday and they were fabulous. 

The Gluten-Free Homemaker is a great resource for gluten-free recipes and ready-made menu ideas. She also has a gluten-free recipe link-up on Wednesdays that is a great place to get ideas.  

Dinner: A Love Story is wonderful. She makes me want to spend lots of time in the kitchen. The recipes are not specifically gluten-free but many of them can be easily converted. I know I should be focused on dinner but this GF Orange Almond Cake is amazing.  

Since I've been experimenting with freezing meals, I've been checking out Once a Month Mom (OAMM), Mama and Baby Love, and Six Cents for ideas. I haven't been brave enough to jump into a membership to OAMM but all the menus prior to January 2012 are free. That said, I still haven't tried cooking a whole monthly menu in a day...I've just been making one or two extra meals a week! OAMM has specific gluten/dairy-free menus but on the other two sites I've been picking and choosing the recipes that work for us.

I want to spend more time exploring Stone Soup. I'm intrigued by the five ingredient recipe concept. Same goes for Weelicious. I stopped looking at that site when L started eating real food but they have family meal recipes too. And it wouldn't hurt me to come up with some new lunch/snack ideas.

And that's about it. Once we come up with enough meal ideas I make a grocery list and we head to the store.

Where do you go for recipe and menu ideas? How do you keep your family meals interesting?

Follow all our adventures at S.A.H.M. i AM.

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