I think cooking and grocery shopping are two of my favorite housekeeping activities 🙂 It’s fun imagining different ways to use the fruits and vegetables that are seasonal and on sale, or figuring out how to use up the remnants of a leftover or the last bits of produce in the fridge before they go bad without making an emergency trip to the store, or balancing all the different food groups throughout the day to make sure the boys are eating a well-rounded diet. In a way, it’s like a puzzle that never gets old because so many of the variables are always changing! (And I must confess that I would get bored pretty quickly if the variables didn’t change – I could never work off a strict rotation of menus because I get tired of cooking the same things and like to mix it up and experiment with new ideas fairly regularly).
Most of my inspiration comes from the produce sale list… I see, for instance, that red bell peppers are only 50 cents each this week and I wonder what I could make with them that my bell-pepper-disdaining family would eat (I love peppers so I’m always attempting to convert the rest of them). Maybe on top of a bruschetta with some sort of cheese – something with feta and ricotta, perhaps… I call those “little toasties” to the kids because they sometimes will outright refuse a food just because it has a strange name and I’d rather not have to deal with that if I can avoid it! And there’s one meal down: I would throw together a quick pasta or veggie to accompany it, depending on what leftovers we have and what’s in the pantry, and let the bruschetta be the main star of the meal.
I think one of the factors that makes this sort of meal-planning easier for me is that I don’t think every dinner has to include a meat. I was a vegetarian for eleven years, so as long as there is some sort of cheese or bean in the main meal I feel like it is complete, and especially if we had a high-protein breakfast or lunch I don’t think it necessary to emphasize the protein at dinner. Instead, dinner ends up being the most vegetable-heavy meal of the day most of the time. We’ll see if this needs to change as the boys get older, of course 🙂 Meats are just harder for me to be creative with because I lost those eleven years of experimentation, so I get more easily bored by the options I can reliably cook.
Right now we’re entering into one of my favorite meal-planning seasons because there is so much seasonal fresh fruit! Fruit is an easy side dish to round out a meal, a healthy dessert if I’m feeling nibbly after dinner, a no-guilt snack to pull out if the boys are hungry an hour before dinner, and a quick breakfast if I’m running late to work. It significantly reduces the amount of prep and forethought I have to put into meals… and the hot weather in general lends itself to quick, light foods instead of the heavier meals that require thawing time, prep time, and cooking time (as delicious as those meals are in the colder weather!).
What are some of your tips and tricks for feeding your family every day?