Sunday, February 7, 2010

Consciously Meal Planning?

When I became a parent, I didn't know how to cook.  OK, maybe that's not entirely true.  I could cook bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, and I could make a grilled cheese sandwich.  Oh, and hamburger helper.  I could do that.  My husband, on the other hand, was quite the cook and happily assumed that role for our family.  However, after my first child was born and started showing an interest in solid foods, I became more interested in what I was feeding him.  When we discovered that he had severe food allergies (oh, so that's why he never really slept well?), it became a necessity for me to learn how to cook.

My adventure began when I read the book Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron.  As a non-cook, I found this book very helpful because it walked me through my first scary trip into the health food store produce aisle and told me what I needed to do once there.  I could read all about the different vegetables ahead of time and not look like I was completely and totally lost.  It was a good thing and I began branching out and learning what to do with asparagus (I didn't realize you could get it without the can) and even some leafy greens (spinach didn't just come in the freezer section?). 

My "baby" is now 11 and I have at least 10 good years of learning about healthy eating, learning how to cook, and even planning my meals.  This year, I'm branching out into the world of gardening and have already started a few things in my winter garden (some lettuce and sunflowers so far).  But the nightly surprise of dinner is wearing on me and I am once again in pursuit of healthy, interesting food choices that my family will eat.  And did I mention it needs to be budget-friendly?  And easy to prepare?  And healthy?  And gluten-free? I don't think I'm asking for a lot, but this seems to be a tall order.  After spending the afternoon looking at different meal planners, recipes, and other suggestions, I am feeling less inspired than I was earlier- except now I'm also hungry.  But do I have anything to show for my hours of work?  Uh, no.

Well, I did find this free organizer from Families With Purpose (cool website!) and I've printed them out to see if this can help me get my ducks in a row.  There are blank menus for the different seasons and shopping list templates to help streamline your shopping.  The cool thing is that you just work on one week at a time and save your work in a 3 ring binder.  Once you have 4 weeks planned in a given season (I'm going to start with winter), then I'll have the whole season planned.  So, I'm going to give this one a try!

What else have you found helpful?  Any great places you've found family-friendly, budget-friendly, healthy, easy to prepare meals?  Please share them so we can all benefit!


Jenny Earnest said...

Gluten free fettucine Alfredo is a nice treat. I call it mac and cheese at my house so my kids don't think it's weird. You boil fettucine (or any variety really) rice noodles then drain them and put in large skillet with 1 c. Half and half, 1/4 c butter and 1/2 c real parmesean cheese. Sautee till melted. Takes 15 min to get on the table. Serve with a green salad. Add grilled chicken or artichokes hearts (the canned kind) to make it fancy. Lol

The Not so Quiet Kids said...

Hi Rebecca!

It seems my husband getting laid off has done wonders for our diet. We don't buy those things we know aren't good for us on a regular basis anymore. For example, no more chips. We have been simplifying, and it seems with less "junk" around, the kids have developed a flavor for the good stuff. We have been into salads. I make an Italian salad, with whatever veggies on hand, some black or green olives and cut up bits of organic pepperoni. A little vinegar, a lot more olive oil, a little garlic, oregano, basil and thyme dressing. Canned artichokes are nice in it, too. A salad with whatever greens are on hand with grilled chicken is good, too. The dressing for that is lemon and olive oil and seasonings of your choice. Avocado makes both salads more yummy, too and adds that creamy touch when you are also dairy free. We've also been doing some very basic soups, chicken rice noodle, chicken and rice, lentil or just plain vegetable soup, maybe in a base of tomato. The cheapest I've found for this is tomato paste. Sometimes I'll only stir in half a can to make the tomato base, or sometimes I'll stir in a spoonful just into my bowl as my husband prefers his tomato free b/c of the acidity.

Rebecca Thompson, M.S., MFT said...

Thanks for your ideas! That Alfredo dish sounds really good, Jenny, and simple, too. And we do eat lots of homemade soups- different every time since we don't use recipes. Well, I use recipes, but my husband doesn't. :-) Thanks for chiming in!