We are at our usual halfway point of starting out the New Year sticking to a weekly family menu.
Each year, we do our collective household New Year’s resolution that, during the week, we will eat healthy, eat at home and shop wisely. (We can schedule in a restaurant or a guilty-pleasure meal on the weekends. For what it’s worth, my son and I both share the same favorite guilty-pleasure meal – gas station hot dog. You say it’s awful? I say it’s awfully delicious!)
And our good-eating habit usually lasts until around the end of February, at which point the wheels come off and we either (a) grab something out or (b) forego long-term planning and hit the grocery every night to buy stuff for dinner, which has the unintended side effect of pretty much tripling our grocery bill.
That bad habit usually lasts until spring and the Farmers Market starts to be flush with good local eats. At that point, my wife heads up the food shopping and stocks up on the majority of our food for the week each Saturday morning.
But for the start of 2014, I’ve been in charge of the grocery runs. We plan our menus and go shopping on Sunday. Sunday night is meal prep night. In addition to cooking Sunday night’s dinner, I spend a good portion of the evening prepping the other meals for the week. Some are frozen, while others lie in wait for the next day’s journey to the crock pot. We let the meal selections be a family affair, with the kids offering suggestions to what they would like to have. (My wife and I do wield veto power over each selection, although most choices have been doable. But we need to have the power lest the dinner request be for, say, Pixie sticks and root beer.)
Fortunately, my kids are good eaters and not picky at all. I believe that comes from the fact that they realize we are not kidding when we say, “Yeah, this is what we’re having for dinner. Don’t want it? Nobody has ever died from skipping one meal.”
Rarely, however, do we make things they don’t like. There are two reasons for this: (a) my wife and I are both pretty good cooks and (b) we don’t pick out nasty food choices.
So far, we’ve been good about making the meals and parlaying those into the next day’s lunches. And we’ve had fun finding new and different recipes: cranberry tenderloin, parmesan tilapia, asparagus and avocado casserole, homemade pizza, mini-meatballs and grilled puppy. (Just checking to see if you were still reading.)
I am really hoping that I can keep the streak going, as everyone in my family agrees that this is far superior way to eat. But we keep hectic schedules. Things can catch up with us if we’re not careful, and we’ll end up having one of those occasional chaotic evenings where we say, “And it’s 7:30. What are we doing for dinner?”
Early, planned-out dinner makes for a nice family time. It makes for a more relaxing wind-down in the evenings. It makes for easy-made lunches for the next day. And it makes for a happier bank account.
I’ve been working on this week’s menu, and, with some input from the kids, we have planned for shrimp and grits, spaghetti and meatballs, BLTs, some sort of crock pot ribs, and a special encore appearance by tilapia (style to be determined).
Hopefully, we will keep fighting the good food fight. All it takes is a little bit of planning and we should be able to avoid the February fail that so often befalls our path of good intentions. I want 2014 to be the year that we stick to our guns and keep our streak alive. I vow to continue to shop wisely and plan out all of our meals. At least until spring. Then the pressure is on my wife…
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.