Remedial Dinner Planning

I know I might be alone here, but I love grocery shopping. It may be about my unhealthy love of food, it may be that I starved to death in a past life, who can say? But it is not unequivocal–I don’t like plain old supermarket shopping–but I can walk the aisles of a Trader Joes for a curiously long time.

Sometimes, on bad days, I sneak out of the house just after the kids go down and calm myself down by hanging out at Trader Joes. You get a snack at the kitchen, you feel like any world that has this many chocolate choices must be a civilized place.

Maybe this is why I fail to plan meals, so I can go to Trader Joes 3-4 times a week. It helps me keep the illusion that I only spend $40 a week on groceries, because I tell myself that I go weekly.

So, I love shopping, but I don’t like shopping with four young children. I don’t like the glares and the stares I get from others, and the ones I am then required to give to my kids as they beg and grab. Since they were very little, the rule has been “No asking and no grabbing.” But apparently rules are made to be broken.

It is indeed possible to just go to the store once a week. When you cook a lot from scratch and have a good bulk food situation with your kitchen staples, you can just go get your produce, dairy and meat, and it’s no big deal (or so I’ve heard).

I sat down today and made a 4-week menu plan and shopping list, which I have done before, but today I did it on paper instead of on an elaborate Excel spreadsheet, and it took much less time. And, although I can’t find it now and the baby might have carted it away somewhere, I am sure I’ll find it tomorrow and it will change my life.

I went to Trader Joes today and spent $118 for my family of 6. I really avoid the supermarket whenever possible, and they have much less expensive natural choices than Whole Foods. My menu is now very basic, kid focused and unfancy, because I am so sick of hearing complaints–they have beat me down and I’ve given in.

Every Monday is homemade top-your-own pizza before family night, Tuesdays are Mexican (tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tortilla soup, macho nachos), Wednesdays are Rice or potato-based (jambalaya, chix rice casserole, oven chix and rice, potato soup etc.) Thursdays are pasta (homemade mac’n’cheese, red sauce, lasagne, alfredo), Fridays are box mac’n’cheese (for them at least, ’cause that’s date night), Saturdays are leftovers or breakfast for dinner, Sundays are the fancy but low-effort stuff: pot roast, roasted chicken, chix pot pie, stew and biscuits.

I’m not really a big meat eater, my husband doesn’t think he’s eating unless there is meat involved–just snacking. At least one child fervently hates whatever will be served on a given night. So I built some flexibility into the menu items.

As you may have noticed from my Thursday posts, I have strong feelings about processed food. I like to cook my own food from scratch (which takes much less time than you think). But most of the time, these strong feelings about food do not lend themselves to actually thinking ahead and planning meals or thinking about starting dinner before we should actually be sitting down to eat it.

To lower the chaos level in my life, I finally planned and did it all on one day. As a result, this week I plan to save myself 3 hours of unnecessary daytime shopping. I’m hoping to spend these three hours actually being with my kids and working on my “patient mother” act. Maybe then there will be less freaking out and I won’t be forced to use that time back at Trader Joes after hours, walking the chocolate aisles.

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