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Do you find meal planning too good to be true? - Page 2

post #21 of 41
Originally Posted by SubliminalDarkness View Post
There is no option to say, 'oh, I don't feel like eating that right now.' Meals are what they are, period.

If you don't want what I have prepared for dinner, tough. I'm not a line cook.
post #22 of 41
lots of good advice here.

one thought: have you considered switching your big meal of the day to lunch instead of dinner? that way you could cook when you have more energy, when your DH is around, and when you aren't alone with three kids. or at least cook dinner earlier and reheat later, if you all totally couldn't adjust to eating a big lunch and small dinner.
post #23 of 41
Originally Posted by pampered_mom View Post
You'd think it would be easier, but it just never seems to be so in practice. If I plan things out (even if breakfast and lunch are just done so loosely) it never seems like anyone wants to eat what I've planned. If my husband asks "what's for dinner?" or "what's for lunch?" (in spite of a lovely printed plan easily accessible on the fridge for goodness sakes!!) either he or the children will turn up their noses at it. They don't want that. They're not interested in eating that. If I hesitate or react even the slightest then they're quick with the "can't we just go get x at x restaurant?"
Some of the recent necessary dietary changes probably plays a role in things recently leaving me with a huge mental block right now, but that hasn't always been the case. I guess my problem all comes down to a lack of follow through on my part. When my family members sense a bit of hesitation of vacillation on my part they seize on that and all of my carefully laid plans are torn asunder. I've mostly found it a lot of work to make out with very little payoff in the end - meals they don't want to eat and groceries in the fridge not being eaten and going to waste.
We plan our meals together as a family Saturday morning. That might help up your buy-in.

I also agree that planning in simple meals is useful.

After that, yeah, I think it's a matter of saying "sorry, but this is what's for dinner." I don't mean that in a cruel way - in our house PB&J is available if someone's really not into that meal.
post #24 of 41
I plan just our big meal every day, too (which for us is supper, but if my dh worked a later shift, it would be lunch).

Lunch (or in your case, supper) is pb&honey or quesadillas for kids, leftovers for grownups. Sometimes soup and/or salad. But, easy, lunchy stuff.

Breakfast is one of a few rotating things. Eggs, oatmeal, muffins, cereal, etc.

I do half and half with the themed nights. I do themes Fri-Sun, and Mon-Thurs are a variety. This works well for us becaue weekends are where my meal planning goes to pot. Inevitably, we want to go grab something or eat out or whatever. Having themes (that work for us) helps with that. Mine are

Fri--kiddie fave (hot dogs, sloppy joes, pizza, etc)
Sat lunch--out or quesadillas
Sat night--"party food", which is anything from nachos/wings to a steak dinner. But, it's the best food of the week
Sun lunch--soup or salad, with leftovers for the week of lunches
Sun night--breakfast for supper
post #25 of 41
My meal planning is done much more loosely, and often based on feeding the freezer, so that we have a stash of ready made meals on hand. That way, I can take advantage of sales, esp. on meat, and turn them into freezer meals. I only plan dinner. Breakfast is informal, based on cereal, bagels or eggs most mornings. It's nothing that really needs a plan.

Dh takes leftovers for lunch, the kids buy school lunches and I take a yogurt and fruit. No big deal.

As to no one wanting to eat what I've planned, I don't take a vote. I prepare dinner and they can eat it or go hungry. That's up to them. I'm way too busy to worry about it.
post #26 of 41
I agree with much of what has been said. I only plan dinners; breakfast and lunch are Cheerios, yogurt, leftovers, or a snack tray, generally speaking. If you're stressed out by following the plan, I think doing a dinner-only one would be easier, especially if you just filled in breakfast and lunch with the same thing every day or alternating things (say, yogurt and granola on one day for breakfast, egg and toast the next: repeat).

I know all too well the feeling of looking at the meal plan and thinking, "Eh, that seems like a lot of work." So I try to avoid that in two ways:

1) when I plan, I keep in mind what my schedule is--so that on days when I'm on campus, I don't have to come home from teaching and make coq au vin. Those are the days for a quick soup or tacos.

2) I prep things when I have time and energy. So I might use the crockpot (I got a new one that cooks things faster--much more flexible for me) and throw in dinner when my toddler naps, or right after picking up my daughter from school, instead of at 7 p.m. when everyone is cranky and I'm tired. If it's already in the crockpot (or waiting in the fridge to be tossed in the oven or on the grill), I'm much less likely to decide to skip it.
post #27 of 41
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by la mamita View Post
lots of good advice here.

one thought: have you considered switching your big meal of the day to lunch instead of dinner? that way you could cook when you have more energy, when your DH is around, and when you aren't alone with three kids. or at least cook dinner earlier and reheat later, if you all totally couldn't adjust to eating a big lunch and small dinner.
We've tried this in the past, but since we tend to be fairly busy either with the garden in the summer and homeschooling now it seems to be a tough fit.

I do like the idea of doing some prep work through out the day - I have used the crockpot some which does help. Mostly, I guess it just comes down to me sticking to my guns. I'm still not thrilled with the prospect of the work involved even with a simple plan. I remain cautiously optimistic I guess.
post #28 of 41
Yeah, unfortunately, it does come down to saying, "Here's what we're eating. The end."

I just find that I am better at doing that at 8 p.m. if I did the prep work at 3 p.m.! (And in my house, I'm not bucking the rest of the family--they eat whatever I cook. It's just me. I'm tempted to throw in something faster/easier/less healthy because it's late. Or, worse, go out.)
post #29 of 41
I find I can't plan too far ahead, a week is doable but no longer than that. I'm always amazed on the meal planning threads when people have the whole month mapped out.

I also find it hardest when seasons are changing (like now). I can cope with the casserole when the weather is unexpectedly warm but the salad is not so appealing when we've come back from school dripping wet and cold.

I've found keeping a list of things I can do with the ingredients helps.
So for example we usually keep a pack of chicken in the freezer, which can be roasted, become risotto, go with pasta, top a salad, you get the idea. I found actually making the lists means that even if we don't have exactly what we planned we will probably be able to find something that appeals with the same main ingredients.

We always have a jar of spaghetti sauce and some ground meat around as a quick meal for the days I just don't have time.

Finally (and I need to work on this one) remembering to freeze the things we didn't end up using. I find the more I plan the meals the more I forget this as I already have a meal planned for the next day.
post #30 of 41
I hate the chore of menu planning, but it helps me SO much to have a plan. I deviate sometimes, but stick with it 95% of the time. I plan crock pot meals for busy afternoons, plan use of leftovers too. I do 5 weeks at a time, it takes me about 30 minutes, but saves us a lot of time and hassle in the long run. We used to eat out a lot, and having a menu helped curb that since I had designated days we were going to eat out. (Mom, why can;t we go to ---? That's a great idea, let's keep it in mind for Friday!)
post #31 of 41
You know, if I were you, I would start with three days a week. And tell my DH that with some of the money we saved over eating out, we'd do some special project or activity we've both been wanting to do.

And we have a rule about comments regarding dinner. The same rule my mom had when I was growing up. You can tell the cook you like the food (or some variation of a compliment) or you can say, "Thanks for making dinner."

End. of. story.

(My kids are the same ages yours are, and while my 3-year-old is still getting this, my kindergartner understands it. My DH totally supports it and would NEVER make a less-than-flattering/appreciative comment about food I've cooked).
post #32 of 41
Does your husband contribute to the meal planning? I mean, does he get a say in what you make?

Because here's my take: this isn't a meal planning problem. This is a marriage problem. If you really cannot afford your current approach, and if you have agreed on that as a couple, and he won't follow through, then you have a problem.

I ran this past my husband, and his suggestion was--if you've already discussed this and said, "We need a budget and a plan," but he won't follow it when you do that--maybe it needs to be his job for a while. Give him the cash for the week, according to the budget, and tell him to figure it out for a week. He can hardly complain that he doesn't like what you're cooking if he's made the decision about what it will be. If it's Thursday and you're down to eating oatmeal three times a day because the budget's blown, so be it. It is fundamentally disrespectful to you to disregard your hard work and your family's financial needs in favor of going out to dinner.

That presumes, of course, that you and he are on the same page about needing a meal plan in the first place. If you're imposing your own desire to plan on him without his agreement, I can see why this is creating conflict. What does he say about meal planning, in concept? Is he for it, except when it comes time to eat?
post #33 of 41
Meal planning only started helping me after I stopped being a perfectionist about it (i.e., plan 3 meals a day plus after-school snack, every meal balanced and picturesque)

I took the advice of someone in this forum who talked about planning what you really eat. So I'll write down broth with noodles, which is actually what my kids end out eating 1x/wk. Just put down the simplest thing, then follow through and cook it. Don't be embarrassed if your meal plan has just the most basic food: baked potatoes one night, scrambled eggs in tortillas another. If you are having trouble meal planning the only way to get past it is to be very simple

Later, after you are saving time and money by knowing in advance what dinner will be, you can use that "time savings" to round everything out and add in side dishes that go with the main thing you are making.
post #34 of 41
Thread Starter 
academama - He does help make the meal plan and has gone shopping for it all by himself on occasion. He also really likes what I make and gets many compliments from his co-worker when he has it for dinner the following day. I'm afraid mostly it's just the kids who are usually less than thrilled. The problem is when it's just me and the kids for dinner which, depending upon the week, can be every single day. I try to remember that they're just kids...but it's tough when you've worked hard (managing the baby at the same time) and they don't like it.

Typically when we do eat out it's because dh thinks he's helping. He works a lot so he's pretty tired when not working due to a lack of sleep and I'm weary from taking care of everything else. It's his way of trying to help lighten the load (even though in the end it doesn't).
post #35 of 41
Ah, I follow. Have you pointed out to him that it doesn't really make things easier for you?

As for the kids, well--barring any sort of major issue that would make it impossible for them to eat what you have prepared, and assuming that you've tried to make things they will eat...I'd say, tough. If I'm making something I'm not sure my kids will like, I add in a side dish that I know they like. That way they eat something.

My kids' pediatrician once said something wise: "You decide what they can eat, by deciding what's available. They decide how much they eat and even whether they eat." I would just say, "here's our food. Take it or leave it." I know it's hard when you cook something and plan it and care about it and they won't eat it, but if you can, try to remind yourself that they are learning about manners and about culture and about going with the flow every time you eat dinner. I agree with a previous poster about teaching them how to respond to a food they don't want to eat: if someone cooks for you, you can praise the food, or you can thank them for making it. You do not have to eat it (in my house anyway--I know some parents disagree), but you cannot say it's gross or yucky or anything like that. Respect for the cook is important and they can learn that by doing it, just like saying "please."
post #36 of 41
We have a rule about commenting on dinner too. They don't have to like it, they don't have to eat it past their 2 tasting bites. But they cannot tell me it's gross, ew or some variation of that. Course we've had to expand that a bit since my 4 year old tried "I'm so not eating that, no way!" the other day.

But yeah, this rule has helped me alot. Along with giving my kids a night to plan and have what they want.
post #37 of 41
I used Relishrelish for a long time and it worked for us but I did need to force myself to select the meals on a Friday and shop for the week on a Sunday. Now I do themes, chicken on Monday, pasta on Tuesday, etc.

And like others have said, I don't allow any negativity. This was a biggie for me. I used to basically badger DH into telling me what he wanted to eat. Now, I ask him once at the beginning of the cycle "hungry for anything in particular?" 9x out of 10, he says no. It never crossed DS mind to think he could somehow influence what is served. He is 5 yo so I may have challenges ahead. When he does voice an opinion, I just direct him towards the stuff on the table he does like and leave it at that.

I completely understand the thinking that going out as a "helping" thing. My DH tries that all the time. Now, like someone mentioned, I always keep a couple boxes of pasta, jars of sauce and ground beef on hand. Frozen peppers and onions (and many other veggies) can dress up the sauce.

I need to worry about breakfast and lunch only on the weekends. The same things are available for breakfast all the time. I will sometimes put effort into lunch but if I don't, I have backups like soups and sandwich fixings or pizza in the freezer.
post #38 of 41
I have realized that there are days of the week that I will be more exhausted (mondays I do laundry all day AND clean the rest of the house deep cleaning wise) so I won't want to make some elaborate meal. Those days I often toss something in the crockpot (have you seen the cookbook called, "Not your mother's slow cooker cookbook"?) or plan for my standby sweet potato/black bean quesadillas. There are many great cookbooks you can borrow from the library that have meals which can be made quickly with a minimum of effort. I have a variety of that kind of book on my shelf, from Rachel Ray (meh...not my favorite, but some good stuff) to One Pot Meals, to Cook's Illustrated 30 Minute Meals, to Meals in Half the Time... even if I don't cook every meal from them, it means that I have some decent ideas of what to make.

I say all that because when "I" waffle from the meal plan, it's typically cause I'm tired, don't have help, and don't FEEL LIKE COOKING.

We had a million and half diet restrictions, which pretty much also meant that we couldnt go out and eat, but made it such a pain in the rear to cook that I wanted to cry some nights.

I agree that perhaps you should make your big meal for when you have an extra set of hands in the house. That always makes cooking easier!

The meal plan isn't supposed to stress you out, it's supposed to make life easier. SOoooo, don't waffle. If hubby says, "What's for dinner?" Say, "What's the date? It's on the calender on the fridge. That's what's for dinner. You can help by chopping the carrots." And put in ear plugs and make dinner. If they don't want to eat what you've made they can make PB&J or wait till breakfast. Life is hard that way. I'm not a very sensitive person when it comes to that. I am making an effort...if you can't make the same effort to make living life affordable and don't want what I'm making, then have nothing or have PB&J. He's a grown up...he'll get over it, or start to appreciate what you're making!
post #39 of 41
I think that if the problem is that your kids not wanting what is on the menu, then make them part of the planning process. Either give them each a night to plan as others have suggested, or make sure that you are selecting foods that they will eat. When I plan something DS won't eat (I can't always make toddler friendly foods, it bores me as a cook and then I don't want to make dinner), I make sure to have PBJ available. If after he tastes dinner and doesn't want it he can have a sandwich or go hungry.

Another suggestion may be to plan out 8 dinners on your weekly menu. Make one of the meals something you know everyone will want to eat (maybe pizza) and set that aside for the last night of the week. Each day rotate between the kids who are old enough to have a vote and give the person whose night it is two of the options for dinner. Only give them options you are willing to cook and have planned into the week. At the end of the week, the meal that doesn't get chosen gets pushed into next weeks plan since you theoretically should have everything you need for it.

Or if that is too complicated (it sounded a lot simpler in my head!) Give them choices about parts of the dinner, spaghetti or penne, baked potatoes or mashed potatoes, green beans or green peas.

Above all, stick to your guns. If they sense that you are floundering then they will push until you give in.
post #40 of 41
Meal planning keeps me sane!! I don't plan in the sense that I know what we are having ever night but I plan for 2 weeks and go from there. Does that make sense? I come up with 14 dinners...and always make sure I have some quick/easy ones in there...then I shop for those things needed. Then nightly I can look on my list of dinner options and chose what we are having.
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