My Nutritious, Delicious and a Little Fictitious Meal Planning System

Howdy Strong Mamas!

I had a few requests after my Instagram post at the grocery store about my Food Binder.  As you may know, I cannot cook.  I cannot bake.  I cannot fricassee, broil or sauté.  I cannot make hard-boiled eggs.  I CAN read a recipe but there is always something lost in translation (skill).391747_340029369433703_20893565_n There have been lots of nights in past years that I pulled something out of the oven and cried. I recall with horror the gorgeous Chicken of Promise I had placed in the oven that was mysteriously transformed into the dehydrated carcass of some desert road kill. I also recall the time that I made pork tenderloin (a misnomer, by the way) in the slow cooker and when I cut into it, it let out a final death-gasp of steam and promptly shredded into a pile of saw dust (yes, I added the amount of liquid required by the recipe).  I’m not kidding. I have learned to laugh at myself in my weakness and I no longer take it personally.

Hey, I can’t cook.  No big deal.

But… my family has still gotta eat.  And I’d like those meals to be nutritious, delicious and a little fictitious (meaning I make it look it homemade but it really ain’t).

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Here’s the run down.  I use a simple, no frills binder, no dividers (but you can, of course).  In it I have all of the forms that I make.  I’m no computer genius so I just use Word.  Now, these are not Pinterest-Etsy-worthy forms, okay?  They are just regular Word documents with tables in them.  Regular.  Like the recipes on the forms.  Very regular. I’m hoping if I use the word “regular” enough your expectations will be just low enough for you to be impressed.

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To the right is my Dinner Menu Planner (the left sheet is part of the lunch system, more on that in another post).  These are dinners I especially chose for fall based on research on Pinterest (if you want to check out my Pinterest Recipe Board try here) and cook books I own.  I adore Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) so her simpler recipes (or my dumbed-down versions of them) are here also.

As you can see I have almost 9 weeks of no-repeat, simple dinners that we all love and that I can get on the table in 30 minutes or less.  With 5 kids in 3 schools our afternoons are hectic to say the least.  Homework, tutoring, high school carpools, sporting events, you know the drill.  Dinners have to be quick and easy!  And yes, week 2 has muffins with fruit salad.  Would it help if I said they were large organic whole wheat muffins and the fruit salad was huge and gorgeous and I had an organic yogurt-dipping sauce on the side?  All presented beautifully.  See… nutritious, delicious and fictitious.

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Another example of what I might do for a “fictitious” dinner is prepare 2 or 3 trays of the frozen Chicken Alfredo from Trader Joe’s, roast some broccoli (I can actually do that, though sometimes it comes out charred.  The kids have learned to call these “chips”), toss together and sprinkle some chopped parsley on top and plate it in a huge, gorgeous white dish.

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I know I’m joking around quite a bit in this post, but there is one thing I am very serious about when it comes to what my family eats: WE DON’T EAT JUNK.  No GMO’s and only foods with minimal chemicals and no artificial dyes (if it changes the color of their tongue it is not good for them).  I try to buy organic when it fits in the budget (I only buy organic if we are going to eat the skin.  Saves me a ton of money!).  Seriously, the data out there is staggering and scary.  That’s why I shop at Trader Joe’s. No GMO’s.

Okay, so, from the monthly menu I choose a week and plug it into this form: the Weekly Menu.  The first section has menu ideas for breakfast, snack and lunch.  These are on the form so I can put them in the grocery list section if we will be having them this week.  The next section, the days of the week, are where I put the dates.  It starts on Tuesday because that is when I shop.  The “Calendar” line is where I put anything that might affect dinner that evening.  For instance, my husband was counseling a couple on Tuesday night (and I don’t cook if he isn’t home) so that day is marked off.  The rest is pretty self-explanatory.

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These 2 forms are menus that I framed on the counter when the kiddos were little and I had a 10, 8, 4, 3 and 1 year old.  I was just so fried I couldn’t think of what to make for lunch or snack and I found I just kept giving them goldfish and applesauce, so this is the system I came up with to help me stay on top of their nutrition and give them some variety.  Now I post it during the summer on the family management door so they can eat something other than goldfish and applesauce.

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IMG_3604So, those are the nuts and bolts of the plan!  Nothing fancy, BUT IT WORKS.  Feel free to comment with any questions or recipe requests.  And be sure to check out my truly brilliant and interactive lunch planning system (I’m totally overselling it, but my kids do really like it) which I will post soon.  Please like and share this if you found it useful!

Stay Strong, DJ

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12 thoughts on “My Nutritious, Delicious and a Little Fictitious Meal Planning System

  1. Pingback: 6 EASY Techniques that Help Me Tame the Homework Monster! | mamastrong

    • Hi summerjoy247! Here’s how I’ve done it over the years: the binder is always in the kitchen. Over time, as I have had a moment here and there (before the kids are up, during a break in the afternoon, nap time, etc.) to find a recipe I write it in the calendar in pencil with some sort of reference so I know where to find the recipe. At some point, I try it out. If the fam likes it, it stays, if not, it gets erased. I also have notes in some cookbooks for recipes I’ve tried out, and those go in the calendar also. If i’m on Pinterest and I pin a recipe, I’ll try to get that into the calendar. Sometimes I have asked Siri to remind me to put it in the binder when I get home so I don’t forget. It is not a one-and-done kind of thing. When I had 5 little ones running around nap time was a good time to focus on it, or if they were watching a TV show. When the youngest is in the high chair was a time I could jot one or two recipes down. It just gets done in the flow of life. No pressure! Now that my kiddos are older I do have the luxury (and it is a luxury!!!) to sit down and devote more time to it. But that isn’t necessary. The most important thing for me to remember was there was no deadline, the family will eat! And when it did eventually get done I celebrated (and added to it!). Let me know if you are interested in me posting the actual recipes. I would be happy to serve you in that way! Stay Strong, DJ

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I will admit that meals done your way would make life easier, so I’m going to give the preplanning thing a shot! I also like that you sometimes serve scrambled eggs and toast for dinner– that is very manageable and realistic. Like you, if my husband is not home for dinner, I take the night off from cooking. Thanks for the great ideas and for your honesty!

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  3. Wow- thats a lot of work for a “non- cook” lol- I love this post though- thanks for sharing… inspiring for me (the one who somehow burns everything) I am always looking for interesting new ways to make fast but nutritious meals!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Nissa! Cooking is work for me no matter how you slice it! I use SO MANY pre-prepared foods. I find at Trader Joes they fit in our family budget, like their beef pot roast (I just add potatoes) and their Orange Chicken! Thanks for the positive feedback!!

      Liked by 1 person

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