2-24-15. I wrote that date on the bathroom mirror and the number that showed on the scale. I could no longer button 95% of my pants comfortably. Enough feeling sorry for myself and pouting. It was time to make a change.
Step 1: Overhaul the weekly menu plan. Our predictable rotation of pizza, hamburgers, pasta, pancakes, and nuggets just wasn’t cutting it. The kids were happy with it, and cooking was easy. But that miserable feeling each morning of trying on four pairs of pants that don’t fit trumps happy and easy. Ugh.
So like every other week for nearly the past 10 years, I got out the yellow spiral notepad and tried to decide what we would have. Another ugh.
Enter Why-Didn’t-I-Try-This-Idea-Sooner #167: A four week menu plan. Hello!?!
I remember I spent one of our many snow days creating it. Four weeks seemed long enough that it wouldn’t feel like we were always eating the same thing, but short enough that I could come up with enough different ideas to make it work. I typed it up in Google Sheets, shared it with Jay, and verified with him that it wasn’t too heavy on the Mexican themed meals. He agreed. Woot!
I’ve been done deciding what’s for dinner for a little over two months now…I just see what’s next and plan my grocery list accordingly. Sure, I still have to figure out which meal goes which night each week, but the hard part’s already done for me. And because I needed some sort of break from grading SOL review papers this afternoon and I have a few friends who have seemed at least a little interested in the idea, I decided to share it with you. So…here goes…
Grilled Chicken with Fiesta Bean Salad We have grilled chicken once each week because neither of us get tired of it, and it’s one of the few proteins both kids will eat. Most weeks we get it from Fresh Market on Tuesdays when it’s on sale for $2.99 a pound. That husband of mine knows how to cook a pretty perfect piece of chicken. If you come to eat at our house some night, this is most likely what we’ll feed you.
Santa Fe Turkey Stuffed Peppers If you follow any of the links, you’ll discover pretty quickly that they all come from Skinnytaste.com. I found her site several years ago when we were doing Weight Watchers because all of her recipes have points values included. I can honestly say that we’ve never cooked something from this site that we didn’t like….this one included!
Crock Pot Creamy Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Since I made my meal plan in the winter, I have a soup each week. This is one I’m ready to swap out already for something more summer-friendly. I also have a crock pot meal each week, so it would be great to find something that can cook all day to replace it. Send me your ideas if you have any!
Baked tilapia, quinoa, & steamed broccoli I know it’s not the healthiest way to eat it, but we get breaded filets from Sam’s. This is our gotta-have-dinner-ready-quick-night meal, so I try to keep it as simple as possible. We get these microwaveable bags of rice and quinoa, and I also steam the broccoli in the microwave. So easy.
Grilled chicken with edamame & strawberries I’m going to just go ahead and admit that my kids don’t eat much of these things on my menu. I know it goes against all good advice when it comes to feeding little people, but I often end up fixing them something different. I still give them mostly healthy choices (*see my list below), but it’s just not a battle that I’m up for fighting right now. I keep offering the other stuff and hoping that by the time they get to college, maybe they’ll learn to eat real food like I did! All that being said, this is a meal they actually love! We’ve tried these two brands of edamame recently, and both were great from the microwave tossed with a little bit of salt.
Taco salads Nothing fancy here. We usually do 1 lb. of hamburger, lettuce, a few chips, cheese, diced peppers, and the best salsa ever. This week we’re having company, and I need to have it ready when I get home. I learned from my friend Ashley that you can just put chicken breasts in the crock put, dump a jar of salsa over it, and leave it on low all day for perfectly shred-able chicken when you get home. That’s how we’ll have it this week!
Crock Put Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps I was mostly joking when I suggested this recipe to Jay. He agreed to try it, and it has turned out to be one of his favorites. Who knew? We’ve been using the living butter lettuce for the wraps with broccoli slaw and blue cheese dressing for the topping.
Kale and Potato Soup with Turkey Sausage This is another one that I was surprised that Jay liked, however it’s time to swap it out for something that doesn’t make you think of a cold, rainy day. This week we’re going to try this pasta recipe as a possibility. We’ll see how it goes.
Grilled chicken with roasted veggies I like to cut up peppers, zucchini, squash, red onion, and a few potatoes for my roasted veggies. Broccoli and mushrooms work well too. I toss them with olive oil, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt, and red pepper flakes. I just make it up as I go along each time, but here’s the basic idea if you need a recipe.
Shepherd’s Pie This is definitely one the kids won’t touch. The good part about that, though, is that lunches are done for Jay and me for the next 2 days. We only plan to cook 3 or 4 meals a week because we can cover the rest of the days with leftovers, the occasional dinner out, or a meal with the in-laws.
Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili Jay’s instructions were to go easy on the cumin and chili powder meals, but this is one I just couldn’t pass up. We have a standing agreement that he’ll eat it for dinner and maybe one day’s worth of leftovers, but I have to take care of all the rest. Fine by me. This is a ridiculously easy recipe, and it makes a ton. Give it a try the next time you have to feed a bunch of hungry people!
Petite Crust-less Quiche, asparagus, quinoa Last time I made this I used ham instead of the sausage that the recipe calls for. The kiddos will eat ham on a good day, so they had it on the same night as us. When I cook the asparagus, I use a little bit of olive oil, garlic salt, and crushed red pepper and put them under the broiler until they are crunchy. Yum.
Salads with grilled chicken I could eat this several times a week, but Jay…not so much. Most weeks I end up eating the leftover chicken on a salad a few times as my lunch. This is our favorite dressing these days.
Pasta Nothing especially creative here. The kids like pasta (Bubba with sauce…Chica without), so it’s another meal where I don’t have to think too hard. We’ve lightened it up by cutting the amount of pasta we’re eating, halving the amount of ground beef, and adding sautéed zucchini, squash, peppers, and onions to make it seem like a bigger meal.
Slow Cooker Pork and Green Chile Stew This is a really ugly meal, but it’s so yummy and easy! Don’t skip the avocado if you try it.
Mini Meatloaves, green beans, strawberries My only meal from a real cookbook! I did some digging and found the recipe online though. Here it is. I like to use ground turkey for this. I used to serve this with mashed potatoes or rice, but now I try to skip the extra starch.
*What the little people eat…
Main dishes: English muffins with Laughing Cow cheese or pizza toppings, mac & cheese, cheese toast, ham, chicken nuggets, grilled chicken, pasta
Sides: yogurt, applesauce, craisins, bananas, apples, edamame, broccoli (under duress), carrots, grapes, cucumbers, pretzels, Cheez-Its, pepperonis, strawberries
So…there you have it. All you never wanted to know about what we eat in our house. Maybe you do your menu planning every day at 5:30, each weekend, or once every two weeks. Whenever it happens at your house, maybe you’ve found a new idea or two you can use here!
I’d love for you to leave me a comment with your go-to healthy dinner idea. Once Jay has finally had enough of the taco chili or salads with chicken, I’ll have a new idea ready to go!
P.S. I realized I started out by saying that my menu overhaul was step #1 to getting back into those pants I couldn’t wear. We’ve done lots of other things, but it all really boils down to this: Eat less. Move more. Two months later….my pants fit again. Woot!