Menu Planning

One of our family’s New Year’s Resolutions was to plan our weekly food menu and simplify it. Our goal was to eliminate the stress and the overwhelming feeling that is normally associated with that 5 o’clock hour in our household when everyone is hungry, tired and all asking the same question “what’s for dinner”?

Inspired by my son’s Waldorf school’s food philosophy our goal was to limit food choices and complexity. We also wanted to establish a food rhythm and a greater sense of predictability. As you simplify, kids get less and less picky about food. By increasing the sense of rhythm and regularity kids begin to feel less overwhelmed, as their lives become more predictable and less out of control, they feel less of a need to exert control over food. Being a vegan family our house was frequently stocked with unprocessed plant-based foods but there was no rhythm for the food, no routine to eat what when. By us not meal planning, our fresh food often spoiled before being used and we found ourselves making more frequent last minute take-out orders. Therefore, in addition to the stress of what to eat, the sense of unpredictability for the kids we were wasting a lot of money.

Resolution put into action:

  • Every Sunday we sit down as a family and plan our menu for the upcoming week
  • We got a simple white board and write out our meals. This white board sits on the kitchen counter. This visual reminder keeps us accountable to our planned meals and has completely eliminated the stress related to “what’s for dinner?”
  • We keep things simple and repetitive. This helps the kids understand the rhythm of the week and allows the meal to either be prepared by Paul or myself. By repetitive I mean every Monday we have the same base meal, every Tuesday the same thing, ect. Example: Monday rice night, Tuesday taco night, Wednesday pasta night, and so on.
  • We grocery shop as a family once a week. While doing this most likely doubles the time commitment in the grocery store but the kids enjoy being apart of the experience. We write out our grocery list based on the planned meals for the week and make adjustments based on any leftover groceries we still have in the fridge or pantry. This ensures all of the groceries will get used.
  • We found regular meals on regular nights helps family dinners actually happen

This is our weekly breakfast rhythm:

  • Monday – Oatmeal
  • Tuesday – Oatmeal
  • Wednesday – Oatmeal
  • Thursday – Oatmeal
  • Friday – Cereal
  • Saturday – Bagels
  • Sunday – Pancakes or Waffles

Lunch is usually a smoothie packed with greens or dinner leftovers.

Below is an example of one of our week’s worth of dinner meals and our coordinating weekly grocery list. Many of the staple items like oatmeal, couscous, quinoa, brown rice, and black beans we stock up on at Costco.

Every Monday we do a quinoa dish, Tuesday is taco related, Wednesday is pasta night, Thursday is couscous, Friday is something fun, Saturday is burgers, Sunday is brown rice. Therefore the core meal is repetitive but there are variations within each meal such as different vegetables or beans. The description of the meal may seem routine but the experience of them is not. Consistency teaches us that some things do not change, though we may wish they would. Not everything bends to our personal preferences.   

Grocery List week of 1/23/17:

Produce:

  • Collard Greens
  • Bag of Baby Carrots
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Fresh Basil leaves
  • 4 avocados
  • Bananas
  • Clementines
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • 3 bags of baby spinach (for smoothies)

Condiments:

  • Olive Oil
  • Just Mayo
  • Tub of Earth Balance Vegan Butter
  • Vegetable broth

Refrigerated:

  • 3 – 1/2 gallons of Non-dairy Milk (Ripple unsweetened)
  • Coconut water
  • Hummus
  • Seitan

Pantry:

  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Bagels
  • Hot Dog Buns
  • Apple Cinnamon cereal bars
  • Cereal (Spoonfuls, mom’s pick, Sage’s pick)
  • Almond Butter
  • Macro Bars (5-6)
  • Banana bites

Frozen:

  • Beyond Meat frozen burgers
  • Popsicle
  • Frozen Peas