My husband and I grew up watching our grandmas and moms, even after a long day at work, getting into the kitchen and making a homemade dinner for the family. Even the thought of those meals bring us back to our childhood. Once we started our family, we knew we wanted to continue that tradition with our kids.
I wanted so badly to have a whole arsenal of meals that my kids would want to “come home” for. But it is a lot easier said than done! By the end of the day, the idea of making dinner can feel incredibly daunting. I would DoorDash or drive-thru or Hamburger-Helper it just to fill tummies. That is expensive and unhealthy and not at all what I wanted for my family. So I drew up my own version of weekly meal planning. And for a few years now, it’s worked awesome!
I’m sort of a Pinterest junkie when it comes to recipes. I am on it almost every day looking up new foods and dishes to try. If we go out to eat and something was good, I look for the copycat. If we see something interesting on Food Network, I search for a similar recipe. My “Recipes to Try” board is pretty impressive. But, over the years, I’ve built my “Saved Recipes” board into something pretty stellar, too.
Every Wednesday, I start drawing up a menu for the next week. This gives me a few days to put it together and I can take my time. I keep a little chart (nothing fancy, just my Notes app on my phone) of each day’s planned dinner. I try to alternate my starches, not having rice two days in a row or having predominantly pasta dishes, and I poll the family for what they may be craving or what “Recipe to Try” sounds good to test out. Note: We have LOTS of failed recipes, but it’s always fun to test them out and hope for what we call a “GFam Keeper.”
Getting the Groceries
As the menu gets built, I go into my grocery app and add the ingredients to the cart. As we run out of things during the week, I also add those as well. If someone sees a commercial for a new flavor of chips or if the weather app tells me a heat wave is coming, I pop into the app and add the chips or a pint of ice cream. I can also order things like Easter basket goodies that curious eyes will never see — they don’t see the cart in the app and it’s all in bags by the time I come home.
I’m a HUGE fan of the pickup option. I just roll up, pop it in the trunk, and I’m outta there. Wandering around a grocery store is not my cup of tea. I have to swat little hands away from taking things off the shelves, text my teenager to find out where he’s wandered off to, and I am constantly putting things in the cart that we do not even need. But my sister really enjoys the act of meandering through the aisles (and often gets to go to the store solo, so it’s really a break time from the kids and I can see why she’d like it to take as long as possible). So she uses her app cart as her shopping list. Whichever way you do it, it’s the perfect way to make sure you have everything you need for the week. It’s also a nice way to make sure you stay on budget, which is definitely a concern of mine.
Every Saturday night, the menu magnet on the fridge gets swiped clean to put up the meals for the next week. My son and husband are quick to come over and see what the final lineup is and voice which night they’re most excited for. Having that up there makes me feel much more accountable come dinnertime. They may have been salivating over the chicken lazone (a Gutierrez Family favorite) the entire day, so if I don’t make it, I could break someone’s culinary heart. Their anticipation and the fact that I already have everything I need for the recipe makes it so much easier to muster up the energy to cook a nice dinner.
I can also schedule “easy meals” on days I know I’ll be working late or have something that will get in the way of making an elaborate dinner. And, honestly, I’ve spent years finding recipes that are not labor intensive but are still homemade so pretty much everything on the menu is fairly simple to whip up.
The Beauty of Home-Cooked Meals
I say every weekday night because it really is fun to go out to eat and every mama needs a break from the kitchen. Even though I love their happy faces and their words of appreciation for what I’ve made, sometimes I just want someone else to feed me. I will usually have an “extra” meal on my menu labeled “S,” which stands for Saturday or Sunday in case I am home and feel like cooking, but it oftentimes gets pushed to Monday of the following week because I never actually made it.
But during the week, in the chaos of daily life, I really love sitting down at the table with the family and enjoying the meal I prepared for them. It’s a simple system, and it may not work for everyone, but it works for us and it’s made a huge difference in our weekday evenings.
If anyone wants a recipe suggestion, just ask. I have so many good ones that I love to share! And hopefully, my growing recipe collection will have my kiddos craving mom’s cooking for a long, long time.