Growing up, Wednesday was Prince Spaghetti Day. If you are approximately my age, and grew up in approximately New Jersey, you might remember this ad:
And yes, for the purposes of this post, Boston is approximately Jersey.
In our house, though, Wednesday was bowling night, which meant it was Fun Food Night, which meant pizza, sub sandwiches from the little shop, or McD’s/Burger King/Arthur Treacher’s. Beyond bowling night, I don’t remember any other schedule of meals. My mom will likely comment here, saying, “How can you not know that Monday was meatloaf? And Friday was fishsticks?” But I honestly don’t remember, while still knowing my mom’s meatloaf is still my favorite. I do remember dinner was every night at 6pm, which I cannot imagine pulling together. Mom, you rock!
I recently borrowed a book from a friend called The Family Dinner. It’s written by Laurie David, and I was initially very skeptical of a book about family dinner being written by the wife of a famous funny guy who also has a full-time cook. As one is (hell-o Jennifer Seinfeld, putting spinach in brownies isn’t the same as healthy eating!).
The whole book has a magazine feel to it, with many quotes from famous friends, and many, many text boxes saying fun things like, “Gardein, a new substitute for chicken, is made from soy, wheat, and peas and is a great source of protein.” Once I started though, I kept on reading, because she was addressing something I worry about. My house rarely eats dinner all at the same time, and if we do it’s still rarely together. This led me to the weekly meal plan. I figured if I had a plan, I could save the time spent wondering what to make, and put it toward yelling at the kids to wipe the paint off the table and get it set for dinner.
This plan didn’t lead to 7 nights a week of family dinner, of course, and I can’t always stick to the plan. Having the general framework set up does help, though. I know that if I don’t have anything to put on a tortilla on Tuesday, I’ve got to shop or re-think. If there is a meeting Thursday night, I know the kids need healthy supplements to the box of mac and cheese Big Sister will make.
Here’s my plan. First my basic framework for a dinner: each dinner has a protein, starch, fruit, raw vegetable, cooked vegetable. I try to make sure that there’s something each of us likes with each meal, but as the kids get older I worry less about this. I don’t list the entire meal, because it’s flexible, depending on what’s on sale.
- Mon: fried rice and soup/red beans and rice
- Tue: Taco Tuesday
- Wed: Prince Spaghetti Day
- Thur: Refrigerator Buffet
- Fri: Pizza Night, or Meat on Grill
Monday and Thursday are the days I work on using leftovers. Refrigerator Buffet is simple–all the leftovers go out on the counter, and we fix plates. The kids love it, because they’ve got lots of choices, and I love it because it’s frugal and I don’t cook. Mondays are also a leftover day, but upcycled. I make fried rice with whatever meat and vegetables are left from a weekend of food, and use others to make a soup of some sort. If the leftovers don’t seem like they’ll be good that way, they go in a pot with beans and get served on rice. This way, I minimize waste as well as that urge to pick up take out!
If you’ve got a plan, post it in the comments. Unless you have a monthly plan. Don’t type that in, just give us a link. You have things to do.