Oh my. Menu planning? Whose idea was this? er…um…why don’t you go see how the other 3 moms feed their crew:
But you’re not going to let me off the hook that easily, are you? Neither does my family.
Like much of life, our menu was far more organized when all the children were little and everything hinged upon Yours Truly getting it all done. If I didn’t have a plan, eating became tricky to say the least.
Now I have 6 understudies in the kitchen, and among us we have a good streak of creativity. If we fail to plan, we can usually come up with a quick and appetizing meal nonetheless. I’m not recommending our method menu planning, nor am I excusing it. I’m just telling it like it is.
It could also be that after 12 or 15 years of more structured menu planning, I have learned to plan subconsciously. When I shop, I have an actual list and a general sort of menu either in writing or in mind, so even when there’s no written plan there are meals in the fridge, freezer and pantry. Are you buying any of this, or should I stop now?
You’re buying it? Good. So am I. Hopefully my husband and kids are buying it too.
So…here are some of the meals that commonly land on our menu.
- Homemade granola with lots of nuts for high-protein staying power
- Oatmeal (often with apples and lots of cinnamon)
- Pancakes – made from scratch, of course. We quadruple the recipe from my old Better Homes cookbook, to make just enough for me and the kids after hubby has gone to work.
- Eggs (fresh from the chicken house) and toast from homemade whole wheat bread
- Baked oatmeal (again, usually with lots of apples and cinnamon)
- Egg burritos (egg, cheese and occasionally sausage in a tortilla)
- Banana bread and milk – sometimes with walnuts to boost the protein content, and usually with peanut butter for the same reason.
- Breakfast in a bowl (grits, eggs, cheese, sausage)
- Sausage gravy, biscuits, and eggs (generally only on weekends). May also include grits, to be eaten with butter, salt and pepper – never sweetened. We’re southerners, after all.
- Cold pizza (a Saturday morning tradition)
- Kefir - this is new for us, but hubby and I often start our day with a cup of kefir. Several of the kids have also developed a taste for it.
- Leftovers – always high on the list.
- Grilled cheese sandwiches – cheddar cheese on whole wheat bread, made with real butter. mmmm!
- Fried rice – leftover rice with any veggies we have on hand, plus several eggs and some soy sauce.
- Peanut butter-banana smoothies – We peel browning bananas and freeze in large ziplock bags. For a cold delicious thoroughly nutritious lunch, blend 2 frozen bananas, a scoop of peanut butter, and some milk. Now we often use kefir instead of milk for a nice tang.
- Peanut butter & jelly rollups – on tortillas instead of bread. Usually for the little ones when the bigger ones eat leftovers.
- Nachos – spread tortilla chips on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with grated cheddar and bake for a few minutes til cheese is melted. Dip in salsa. For single servings, a plate in the microwave works just fine. When you shop at Costco, tortilla chips and grated cheddar are surprisingly affordable.
- Ramen noodles. It’s true. I confess.
- More fun and easy lunches here and here, though those are older posts and our menu has evolved over time.
- Tomatoes – we often serve up and demolish entire plates of quartered tomatoes
- Fruit – whatever varieties we have on hand, usually purchased wholesale by the case and likewise eaten by the case.
- Banana smoothies – as on the lunch menu above, but we often leave out the peanut butter if we’re not using these as a meal.
- Cheese quesadillas – just cheddar cheese melted in a tortilla.
- Carrot sticks, with or without dip
- Frozen peas, straight from the bag. Are we weird?
- anything fast & easy from the lunch list above
Dinner (nearly always includes a salad):
- Taco salad
- Mexican casserole
- Chicken pot pie
- Homemade pizza on Fridays. Every Friday. Without fail. No exceptions allowed.
- Beans, rice & cornbread – usually with sausage in the beans.
- Fajitas – with preseasoned fajita meat bought on sale. :)
- Burritos – taco meat, bean & cheese, plus lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, and sour cream if we have it.
- Enchiladas or enchilada casserole
- Beef stroganoff
- Sloppy joes
- Baked herb chicken
- Taco chicken
- Ham/potato chowder
- Chili over rice
- Misc. creamy, cheesy noodle creations with meat or poultry of some sort
Above all, we try to operate in a “what do I have in my hand” mode. Although I don’t empty my pantry every week, I do try to be mindful of what I already have and buy ingredients to go with those items so that we rotate our stock and regularly – or eventually – use nearly everything we have.
Upcoming topics for 4 Moms 35 Kids
- April 15 Cooking from scratch – what you make from scratch and how you get it all done
- April 22 Recipe swap – We’ll all post a couple of our favorite, budget friendly, feed a crowd recipes and a Mr. Linky so that readers can participate by contributing their own recipes. When you share your link on one of our blogs, it will show up on all 4! How fun is that?!
- March 18 - Live-blog day, in which all 4 of us live-blog a real day in our home. Find out what we really do all day. It’s our own reality show, just for you. Who needs TV?
- March 25 – Outings with only little ones. Mom’s rules of order, and how notto become the poster family for birth control.
- April 1 - A baker’s dozen for managing the food budget: budgeting in the kitchen to feed a crowd.