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). 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, 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