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Meal Planning for My Sanity

If you follow my Instagram (@lwalbolt) or my Facebook, I’ve been posting weekly pictures of our dinner menu since just before Henry began kindergarten. It’s been helpful for me to plan out our dinners for grocery shopping purposes and to give an advance look at our evening plans that may interrupt family dinner time. I feel calmer about the whole dinner process, especially because my house becomes crazytown between 5 and 7 pm (the time when I make dinner).

If your house goes bonkers in the evening like mine does (I continuously ask myself, “Is it bedtime yet?”), maybe my process for meal planning can help you find some peace in the actual cooking of dinner.

First, I compiled a list of all our favorite recipes with accompanying website locations since I had them saved in multiple places (including the abyss that is my Pinterest account). I divided the list by meat (chicken, pork, beef) and vegetarian meals. That way I can do a variety of foods and not just eat delicious pasta every night.

Next, I look at our schedule to see when Keith and I have evening meetings, family fun times, or gym classes, and I make easy, quick meals on those nights. I know I never feel like cooking on Sundays (church drains all of us as a clergy family) so we either do leftovers or pizza (Publix has excellent dough in the bakery which makes for easy assembly). Since Monday is Keith’s day off, I produce a more elaborate meal with leftovers so he has food to take for lunch during the week. I also alternate the type of grains we eat so everyone gets their favorite. Finally, I got an Instant Pot over the summer so I’ve been making something in there once a week.

Sometimes the kids are not here for eating my new creations. “I hate broccoli,” exclaims Elliot, and “It’s too spicy” are two statements I often hear. So I always make sure there is something on their plates they love (like applesauce), and they are required to try (occasionally with tears) all parts of dinner. But there’s usually leftover macaroni and cheese in the fridge that I heat up once they try it, if they’re still so so hungry.

Most importantly, I allow myself grace when I don’t feel like making whatever dinner I have planned (no real reason required). Chicken nuggets and fries plus salad (just kidding – chicken nuggets and tots are a totally fine dinner) is something we eat on the regular, and never gets old. Assuming the ingredients haven’t gotten disgusting, I just move the meal I didn’t make to next week’s menu. So if you see a meal on my menu two weeks in a row (or more), it’s probably because we had a lazy night (or maybe we really liked it).

Currently, we are trying to eat more vegetarian meals so I’m only planning meat a couple times a week. I’ve been scouring my favorite websites (Six Sisters Stuff, Damn Delicious, Budget Bytes, and Pioneer Woman) for new recipes, because I like to do 1-2 new to us recipes each week. It keeps me from getting bored in the kitchen, and some of them turn out to be hits. Only a couple of times have we had to order pizza because dinner was inedible. So I consider myself a self-taught cooking success! Now if I could find some trained animals to do the dishes afterwards that would be ideal.

Coloring Easter Eggs

Last year, I didn’t even bother trying to dye Easter eggs with Henry since he was only one, and I remember the process as a kid being a whole lot of waiting and not a lot of doing (something 1 year olds don’t excel at). We made carrot cake cookies instead, and he loved it. So this year I decided we were going to dye eggs, but needed to decide how. Should we use the same kits I used as a kid (eww, vinegar smell), dye eggs with natural dye from fruits and veggies (don’t really have the energy to round up different food items to make the dye, and Henry won’t care much anyways), or find an alternative on Pinterest? 

I went with choice three and found an easy way to dye eggs using shaving cream and food coloring. Except I replaced the shaving cream with cool whip because the Hen still has a occasional tendency to put things in his mouth, and I figured the pretty colors could be a temptation (they weren’t, but it smelled nice). Henry chose how much dye we put in the cool whip (yay pink!), and then helped me swirl it all around. 

Now we were ready to color the eggs and get really messy! I demonstrated how to do it, and Henry jumped right in. For two whole eggs, he loved it, and was quickly over it. He wanted me to do the rest so he wouldn’t get dirty. This from the kid who lives and loves to get as dirty as possible. Don’t worry, he made up for it after I finished the eggs and put them aside to dry. 

There was plenty of the colored cool whip left, so I grabbed some paper and let him finger paint. This was exactly what he was waiting for. Thick globs of purplish-bluish- pink dessert topping were spread all over the paper (and him). He was having a blast, as I was trying to figure out how to get food coloring off of myself since I now had dyed hands and a boy quickly turning purple like Violet Beauregard in Willy Wonka. 

Thanks to a quick Google search, I found that a first wash of soap and warm water followed by a vinegar scrub cleaned us mostly up (except my nails, but I’ve been meaning to paint them for Easter Sunday anyway). After Henry was all cleaned up and eating lunch, I rinsed the eggs and love their finished tie-dye swirls. It was a super fun activity for a rainy Holy Week morning.