Once upon a time ago, in a past not that far away, was a mother standing in front of the refrigerator with four starving children screaming at her feet. And all she could think was… what do I feed them?
And like any other frazzled mother, I ordered a million books all promising me that I could stop that last minute dinner crunch. The books sat on my end table, gathering dust and my children still screamed for food. And after years of trying different things, I finally found a groove. . . It wasn’t an overnight groove. It took a lot of trips and falls to figure it out. And maybe one day, my knowledge will help another mother from wanting to cry while standing in front of the refrigerator. Although, sometimes a good cry with the children doesn’t hurt.
What do we like?
My first step was to figure out every single dish that I cook, for every single meal. I did this over the course of a week. Writing down everything that hit their mouths without much resistance, I took all the dinner (or is it supper?) meals and divided those by their main ingredient (chicken, fish, pork, beef, non-meat).
Still with me? That was the hard part. Now print yourself out a simple calendar or menu planner for the next month. Don’t panic! I promise this won’t be hard. Now, decide what you want to do each day. Mondays could be pancakes and bacon for breakfast, a sandwich with chips for lunch, and dinner could be a chicken dish.
Do this for every day of the week. If you have a certain day you eat out, add that in. Growing up, our night out was Fridays, payday. I even included one day to be a new recipe night. Now repeat every week, only for the dinners, plug in one of the dishes that you have on your approved list. You don’t have to do a whole month, but when you’re in the groove, you might as well.
Making your list for grocery shopping is simple now. Every week you will have the same for breakfast and lunch. And don’t be afraid to slightly change things up. On Pancake Day, Cook some sausages or bacon and make the pancakes on top of them, also chocolate chips decorate pancakes nicely. Sandwiches change up nicely with just a simple change of the bread, meat, cheese or even with a switch to peanut butter and jelly.
I started out that way with snacks, but as my children grew, I changed things up. We now have a snack drawer in the refrigerator and a snack basket on the counter. I pick up all sorts of fruits and vegetables for them to eat. When I get home I cut those up and put them in plastic containers.
Plastic containers are my favorite things ever. I keep some things in single servings, but I will also use a bigger container for a mixture of veggies or fruits (not together). These are great to grab at dinner time as a side or when we head to the beach for the day or the park for a long afternoon. I have smaller containers that I can pour some ranch dressing into.
All the children have to do is grab a container of whatever vegetable they want and a container of dressing and it’s a no to little mess snack. You can also make up your own pudding or jello (add fruit!), and pour those into individual servings. Yogurt can be added to the drawer, or whatever else you like your children eating. Making your own individual servings helps with that grocery bill also. The snack basket contains individual servings of chips and crackers. Buy the big bags and break it down to smaller servings (we actually use the measuring cup so everyone gets the exact amount).
I now give my children more choices about what they want for snacks. They are limited on the bad (aka not so healthy) things. They are allowed only so many bags of chips a week. Once they eat their limit, they can only have healthier snacks. This teaches them how to spread out those unhealthy snacks throughout the week.
We also have a set time for snack and meals. Making a stop and go sign for the refrigerator is a huge help. Turn it to go/green when they are able to snack, stop/red when the snacks are closed as meals will be in a bit. This stops the constant cries of, “I’m hungry”.
Want some inexpensive healthy snack ideas? Check out these 100 Calorie Snack packs