Menu Planning Checklist
and cooking takes some thought, but it the time invested on the first day will pay itself back tenfold during the week; especially for families with dietary restrictions.
Now, I am NOT a nutritionist, but I am a mother who was faced with the need to make drastic changes about how my family eats and relates to food. Menu planning allows me the freedom to relax during the week because I know all of the meals for my family are ready to go AND safe for everyone to eat.
My recommendation to you is to look at my sample menu plan while you read this article. It will help everything make sense.
Before You Begin
There are a couple of lists I keep running when planning meals for the week.
1. Food restrictions for ALL family members.
2. A list of favorite meals
3. A list of foods we tried that MIGHT have had an adverse effect.
4. The family calendar
At our house, between two daughters AND a husband, I have the following dietary restrictions: no highly acidic foods, no dairy, no fructose, no green herbs except oregano, no overly greasy foods. Can you begin to see my dilemma?
Oh, yes, in case I forget, I also have one with an aversion to meat (
sensory processing disorder
I like having a list of favorite foods to look at when planning my week. I can sprinkle in a few new and different things each week along with the favorites. It keeps squawking to a minimum. Also, those favorites have already been screened through the no-can-do list.
Lastly, there are occasionally some foods that meet all of the requirements that still cause a problem. I want to keep a list of those so I do not replicate the experience.
Planning Your Meals
When I discuss menu planning, I am mainly looking at dinner planning. I'll show you why.
1. Breakfast is easy. Most kids like the same one or two things in the morning. Have a list of three or four favorite meals makes menu planning a cinch.
Keeping it simple will prevent you from becoming a short order cook.
2. Lunch gets a little more complicated. If the kids eat at school, you just need to circle which days provide food that pass the test. We usually have one, maybe two meals a week that work.
For the rest of the week, I find a combination that works for them, and rotate it in. Once again, my goal is to keep it simple!
3. Dinner is where I exert most of my creativity and effort. This is where I introduce new foods to the family during the “family meal.” Yes, it’s hard, but we don’t have the luxury of running by fast food after practice.
My goal at every meal is to have a protein, a carbohydrate, and at least one vegetable (two is even better). That's the rule I'm attempting to teach the family.
This is my best meal of the week. It’s my Sunday dinner, and I guard the tradition jealously. Many times, I’ll have neighbors or friends over because it’s the last chance I may have to breathe all week.
This week, I will cook a meal that requires an investment of time, simply because I have it.
*NOTE: I make extra because I know I’m going to need it later.
This week, it’s going to be tri-tip steak, rice pilaf, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. I may even offer a dollar to anyone who can eat an entire sprout without screaming or crying, and that includes my husband. The bonus? Everyone will be so disgusted with the new veggie that they will gladly eat the second option!
Tonight we have sports practice, so we will have left over’s. We can make the steak into sandwiches, and a fruit can be offered with one of the veggies. Anyone who manages to eat dinner without fussing will get dessert which is rice-milk hot chocolate with Strevia (or the regular kind if you are able to drink it).
No sports, but still busy. The menu for tonight is baked chicken, green beans with bacon, and red potatoes.
Practice tonight, so let’s keep it simple. We will make it a Portuguese bean night, which is a meal in itself. If you have a serious carnivore like I do, you can add a hamburger on the side.
My favorite night of all, Fend for yourself! You may eat anything left in the refrigerator, as long as it includes a protein, a carbohydrate, and a vegetable.
I’m thinking towards the weekend with basketball games, so I'm going to throw a ham in to cook for several hours. Served with a side of mashed potatoes and some fruits and vegetables, we're set for the weekend.
This is the day we head out to dinner at a friend or family members house. If not, I'll make a small meal of Hashbrown Soup and sandwiches (perhaps leftover ham?).
And Sunday starts the menu planning for the next week.
My Survival Trick
I have one little secret I'd like to share with you. I love spicy, flavorful, international food! Cooking at my house can be pretty basic, so I give myself permisssion to grab lunch of my choice once a week.
I get a break from the rigidity of menu planning and can live on the wild side!
I can't tell you how much I look forward to my little lunch each week! Usually I meet up with a couple of like-minded friends, and it becomes a highlight of my week, especially because I can have that miso soup and sushi I miss so much!