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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Meal Rut Help

Yep, you read it right. My family is in a meal rut.

When I started watching my nephew, Patrick, in the fall, I got away from meal planning and grocery shopping with coupons. I was doing so well with that for a while, but I was busier during the day with him here. Those things all got pushed to the side. Before that I had time during the day, so that's when I did all my grocery shopping. I would scan the ads of the local stores, look online, find the best deals and match coupons to save a lot on our grocery bill.

In January when I was no longer watching Patrick I still found myself in a bit of a rut. I was preparing meals and keeping the house stocked with groceries. But we were still eating out about twice a week (too much for us), and a lot of evenings I didn't think about dinner until 5:00. That doesn't work so well when you're used to eating at 5:30. It ended up being more work that way. There was no plan.

So last month my husband pointed out that I needed to get back to meal planning. I agreed. So I got to work.

It's difficult for me to plan meals for a week. There are only 3 of us, and to prepare something every night I would end up with way too many leftovers. Plus our grocery bill would be too large for us to handle. What I generally do is plan 3-4 big meals to make for the week. I try to keep a few easy extras on hand to make on a boring night. And I keep in mind that we will probably eat out one night a week. The other days we can fix leftovers from previous meals.

This seems to work pretty well, and it's working with our budget as well. I have a big dry erase board that hangs on the fridge. It has the days of the week and areas for menu and more. (It's the one I reviewed at PS Mom Reviews.) I don't worry about lunches, we do simple lunches here. (Need ideas? I can share lunches if you're interested.) So all I'm planning is suppers. It works, and I think things have run smoother since I started doing it.

The problem is by the weekend we're in a rut. On Saturdays we're often busy, and I don't really want to cook. Sundays we have church all morning, and we get home just in time for lunch. Then we take naps and head out to small group (church group/bible study group) for the evening. We try to grab something to eat quickly before we leave. We don't mind eating leftovers, but by Sunday the leftovers are a little too...left over. It's OK to eat them for one meal, but by supper on Sunday it's very boring.

Saturdays I'm working on. If we eat sandwiches or leftovers for lunch, I can make something easy for supper. Sunday is the biggest problem. Especially for Matt. He's really tired of two rounds of leftovers.

Here's where I need your help. What would you suggest for Sunday meals?

One thing I've considered is using the crockpot (which I do like), but I don't think I have enough time Sunday mornings to get things ready. And I think it would either be not enough time to cook (for lunch) or too long (for supper). Another option is just eating out for lunch Sundays. This would be easy to do, because we're already out and about for church. There are lots of options between church and our house. I would have to either adjust the budget or plan well for this. That is doable I think, but I wonder if we'd get tired of it too.

So, that's where I'm at with it. I could use your advice, though. Please, help a girl out. My family thanks you!


Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. I can barely manage to feed my family of three. I run out of ideas, feel like we eat the same things over and over, plus I hate to cook so that doesn't help. We need a Cooking Fairy!

Nowheymama said...

Go with the crock pot! I often make dinner in there after church; if I cook it on high, it's done by dinnertime. Crockpot365 is a great blog. One of our favorite recipes is her Green Pepper Chicken. The kids love it in taco shells.

Good luck!

Cherish said...

our after-church lunch is usually a nice mix of fruits, cheese, crackers or bagels and the like...I just make a snacker type tray out of whatever we have and then we can snack through out the afternoon. We dont go out Sunday evening so I have a bit more freedom there but I use Sunday as a day of rest and the kids get home from their dads at 4 (every other week)so I dont go big. I love the suggestion of using your slow cooker! For us it's usually something super easy that can just be put in the oven (a frozen pizza perhaps, or even a roast) or soup.

Jessica said...

I say crockpot! I love to throw a roast or a roaster chicken in the crockpot on a Sunday. My favorite thing lately is roasting a chicken in the CP all day and then making homemade chicken noodle out of it.

d e v a n said...

Crockpot is a good idea. We like to do a big brunch. Pancakes/waffles, bacon or sausage, fruit, or maybe crepes.

Kelsey said...

I don't know if this would help, but maybe you have some casserole type dishes you can make ahead and just bake on Sunday? If you're already cooking on another night sometimes it isn't that difficult to add another couple of steps. Sorry if that isn't much help!

CAQuincy said...

Does your crockpot have the insert you can pull out? If so, throw together your meal the night before and refrigerate so that you can simply plug it in in the morning.

I also like Cherish's idea of fruit/crackers/appetizer-type snacks.

My kids are DYING for new ideas for their school lunches. :-)

Fran said...

"Shop" the food blogs for ideas! Not to toot myhorn (since I am no PDub!) but I have one of my own...

Nik-Nak said...

Please, please, PLEASE share lunch ideas. We get in a bit of a hotdog/ham sandwhich rut for lunches.

On the other hand. CROCKPOT SISTER!
I love to do a rump roast, can of mushroom soup, cans of whole new potatoes, carrots, green beans, and corn. Dump it all in. Set for 10 hours and you're good. Also we usually have enough leftovers for the next two days.

Also, take skinless, boneless chicken breasts, marinera pizza type sauce and seasonings. Put in the pot for six or so hours. 30 minutes before it's up boil some water and throw in some noodles and voila! you have a nice chicken parmesan meal.

Of course you can always go the hard route and buy fresh veggies and do all the extra prep work but really, who has time for all that?

Sarah said...

We do a lot of light, snack type meals on Sundays. Popcorn, cheese and crackers, and cut up fruit. Also we make breakfast-dinner a lot on weekends, like scrambled eggs and pancakes. Another thing I like to do is keep a big tub of salad greens on hand with the extras like chopped peppers, carrots, cucumbers, whatever else you like already thrown in, and then we can just grab an individual portion whenever we want. I mean, it'll only stay good for a few days, but it's nice to have a salad on hand. You can also throw in shredded cheese and egg for a little extra protein if you're eating it alone as a meal.

andria said...

To help with the meal planning after I started working I designated each night of the week a certain food ex:M is big meal night (because I don't work that day) T is soup night, W is pasta night, Th is vegan night, and F is leftover night.

I've found soup night to be the easiest and quickest. You could do soup on Sunday. It usually doesn't take long and most recipes you could put in the crockpot while you're at church.

Food network dot com has tons of recipes. I also started getting a lot of homemade gourmet delivered to me every other month. They have tons of kits and tons of soup kits that are easy and fast.

MightyMom said...

freeze your left overs. Then pull them out of the freezer in RANDOM order.

that way although you're still eating left's not the SAME left overs 3 times a week.

also try turning the leftover into something different. ie, leftover turkey and veggies can become turkey tetrazzini and voila! a new meal from an old one. without the feel/taste of leftovers.

I would plan those Sundays specifically as they seem to be your problem spot. Sometimes putting it all together in the crock Sat night then throwing it in the fridge to be turned on before you leave for or when you get back from church could work too.

kristi said...

A nice chef salad, or bake some chicken the day before and make chicken salad, my mom suggested a great site called