Wow, this is a tough one for me. I used to really like meal planning. I enjoyed deciding which yummy meals to make and shopping for fun ingredients. Then my son developed food allergies and my daughter became super picky. I was willing to simply power though the pickiness but my husband requested that I try and make more meals that she likes so dinner time isn’t always so unpleasant. Let me just say, my daughter lives on cheese, bread and peanut butter; chocolate if she can get it. My son can’t have dairy except baked or cooked into recipes and can’t have peanuts or peanut butter either. My daughter won’t eat meat. My son can’t get enough of it, and since he can’t have dairy, he needs it for protein. You see my dilemma.
But I decided to give it a go again when I realized. I plan one to two weeks at a time. I try to find ways to cook only once or twice. For example: Monday I will make a baked chicken. I prefer roast potatoes and veggies, but my daughter refuses to eat potatoes so I make rice and steamed veggies, her serving topped with cheese. If I’m lucky she’ll have a tiny bite of chicken. Other meals for the week might include quesadillas (just veggies and chicken in a tortilla for my son), chicken pot pie (which my daughter will reject, and opt for PB&J instead), soup of some kind and maybe a chicken skillet meal. We also usually eat breakfast for dinner at least once a week. It’s fun, easy and everyone eats it. On the nights when are making something I know my daughter loves (like homemade macaroni and cheese) I plan an alternate for my son. If I’m organized enough, I’ll usually defrost some pre-cooked chicken from the freezer to mix with plain pasta and veggies.
I really do love planning meals but budget and my children’s food issues does make it much more difficult and not always very fun. (It’s pretty much guaranteed that my daughter will ask what’s for dinner at 9 AM and if she doesn’t like the answer complain the whole rest of the day about it). But one thing is for sure, if I don’t have a meal planned, we either all eat PB&J (except for my son who will have sunbutter and bread) or get takeout that we may not have the money for. I’d rather plan ahead to get pizza or takeout so that we can budget for it and enjoy it rather than be force into it by poor planning and regret the expense later.
I’m working on trying to create a monthly list of regular meals that I know we will make each month to make planning a little easier in the future.
So how do you meal plan? Do you mind that it helps make things easier or more complicated for you? How do you accommodate budget need and food preferences/allergies?