Hi there! I’m Michelle, one of Collin’s sidekicks!
I’ve been married over 20 years, which means I’ve made 7,362 dinners in my married life, give or take a few hundred. And I have to admit, it has made me SO tired of dinner time! 😴
When I was first married, I loved to make dinner. Possibly because it felt a little like playing house, and possibly because I had piles of new stuff to cook with from all of the wedding gifts we’d received.
Fast forward 20 years and add kids, jobs, and after-school sports, and by the time 6 PM rolls around, I am feeling every one of those 7,362 dinners I’ve previously made. When I don’t have a plan, I dread dinnertime. 😩
To avoid this, I have to make a plan each week or else we’d end up with takeout (not really a frugal or healthy way to go). I have a weakness for takeout! Why does food someone else makes taste SO good?
Oddly enough, though I don’t like to cook much anymore, I do love to collect cookbooks and try new recipes. I guess I’m trying to channel the old me who used to look forward to making time-consuming meals and hoping she shows up again. I usually try to grab a few recipes I plan to make for the week, and then make a list of ingredients I’ll need.
On top of not loving to cook, I have another issue when dinnertime rolls around; I’m a vegetarian in a meat-eating family. My hubby starts panicking if there’s no meat on the table, and my kiddos have joined his carnivore ways. It makes things a little trickier, but I’ve got a few strategies up my sleeve to deal with the vegetarian vs. meat-lovers issue.
I recently grabbed this Veggie Burger Atelier book, and I’ve been making the yummiest veggie burgers. If you love veggie burgers, check out this cookbook for sure! I also love making the recipes I find on Hip2Save and Hip2Keto. Fathead pizza is one of my family’s favorite meals, and I love that one side can have meat and the other side can just have veggies!
I generally spend some time Saturday morning planning meals and making a grocery store list so I can shop later in the day. To make grocery shopping fit my schedule, I visit one store to get everything on my list (usually Walmart or WinCo), and then I make additional stops throughout the week as needed. I’ll also hit up Costco once a month to stock up on my favorite bulk buys.
I allow myself two takeout days per week, and I plan those for days when I know I’ll be busiest (like when I’ve got packed work or after-school schedules or planned date nights).
I also put together snack packs for the family on Sunday evenings. We try to eat healthier, so these small containers of low-carb foods are perfect for grabbing out of the fridge for a mid-afternoon snack. It helps me stay on track, and my husband loves them so he’s not tempted by the vending machines at work. It’s also a cheaper alternative to pre-made protein snack packs you can find at the grocery store, and I can customize them to what we like.
I try to create one pantry dinner a week, which means I come up with a dinner based on what’s in my freezer and/or pantry. It’s a good way to use all those random items I get through couponing. I love to score deals but found I wasn’t always using those items efficiently, so this helps me get my money’s worth.
Sometimes we have Campbell’s soup and grilled cheese if I can’t think of anything else. But guess what? That leaves just four nights a week I have to plan for — sounds like a win to me!
Here are some tried and true tips for meal planning when you’re a vegetarian in a meat-eating family…
Avoid one-size-fits-all meals.
I’ve become pretty good at adapting recipes to fit all of our tastes. I don’t make a lot of single-dish meals such as casseroles. Instead, I’ll cook a meat and a few separate sides so everyone can pick what they want. We grill meat all year long on our patio, and thankfully my husband is the griller in the family, so it gives me a bit of a break.
Keep proteins separate & add them in later.
When I do make casseroles like lasagna or chicken pot pie, I cook them in bread loaf pans rather than big pans. This is so I can make a vegetarian version and a meat-eater version. If I make a soup with meat in it, I make the soup and then cook the meat separately. Then I add the meat to only the bowls of those who want meat. It works for us, and I’ve become pretty creative at working around the difficulties.
Bond over meatless courses, like dessert! 😍
And, of course, I believe dessert should be part of every meal plan! We try hard to eat healthy all week (we tend to skip dessert), but on Sunday nights I either make dessert or buy ice cream. Sunday desserts have become a family tradition, and we often invite grandparents or cousins over to have a big group enjoy this event with us.
So there you have it!
That’s how I handle my crazy life and stay sane at dinnertime! How do you manage meal planning for families with different dietary needs?
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