Easy steps to a family meal planning caper

We all know someone like this. The kind of person whose organizational skills make us want to rip through her kitchen and stuff her freezer completely full of three year old frozen corn and popsicles just like ours. And then we want to move to her pantry where we want to rearrange her canned goods and make sure she’s only got tomato paste instead of diced tomatoes and then, the coup de gras, mix up and throw out half of her plastic container lids so that she’s got a totally mismatching set like the rest of us do.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
For years I have known a very organized woman who puts my entire existence to shame. I am not an organized person, despite what others think. One look at my desk will quickly clear up any suspicions. This friend of mine seems to have her entire life in order, including meal planning. For years now, she has been treating her family to – oh, it even makes me flinch to say it—well planned out family meals. In fact, she plans a month (a month!) of meals in advance, does her big shopping trip and it is probably at home watching TV and sipping tea at 4:00 while the rest of us, or at least me, are standing in front of the freezer wondering what we can defrost and fry up and serve with whatever shred of vegetable is left in the fridge.
But no longer. I decided that I wanted to be that person, the envy of all of my mom friends, who have hearty meals steaming on the table the minute my husband walks in instead of the recent usual, “there’s some cold sloppy joe on the stove.” So I turned to the Internet and the aisles of cookbooks in the library, and after minimal research, I have learned that all of the sources say just about the same thing, all in perky and promising tones. They assure happy and simple mealtimes if you just follow these happy and simple steps:
Make a list of meals! Sit down with your family and have them all choose a favorite dish for the week!
Lay out your recipes in the kitchen and make your shopping list while looking at the ingredients you already have available in your pantry and refrigerator!
Post a menu on the wall so that everyone knows what to expect for the week! Stick to your plan!
Pre-prep your meals! Get casseroles and dishes prepared a day or two in advance and store in the fridge for those really busy nights so all you have to do is an easy 30 minutes of cooking!
Review each new recipe with the family and if they enjoyed it, place it in your “favorites” file and plan to put it in the meal rotation!
Sounds simple enough, right? Amidst the cookbooks and Web sites, I can only imagine how this happy and simple planning would go in my family…
Our list of meals! The children all choose noodles and chicken nuggets. Husband chooses steak. I’ll never get the pan chicken in the caper sauce I’ve been drooling about.
Making the shopping list! I have nothing but a fridge full of capers and a freezer of chicken.
Post a menu on the wall! The children who can read are now complaining and begging to switch taco night to Thursday and everyone wants to know what a caper is.
Pre-prep your meals! Really? Kidding, right? I don’t have time to prep meals, let alone pre-prep. Besides, how does one pre-prep a bowl of buttered pasta?
Review each recipe with the family! The kids give it all a “thumbs in the middle,” husband takes a line from my Grandfather and says, “well, I wouldn’t climb a mountain for it.” I bow my head and lick the caper sauce off my plate, knowing full well that this will never make it into the rotation that I know will never be.

If I get enough requests, I just maybe she’ll post that famous buttered pasta recipe...


Erin O'Connor said…
Okay, don't hate me...I do this meal planning but not to the extent they do it! I only plan about a week in advance but don't assign a meal to a day (more flexible!) Plus, I allow for leftover days, sandwich days, a few pizza days and days that I've titled "Fend for Yourself" where you don't have to eat a leftover but you do have to make your own dinner (may not work for small kids). In the morning I look at my post it note stickied to the wall and pick a meal and set up whatever needs to defrost. I don't always stick to it, if there's a nice day we can grill out I'm all about passing the cooking duties to the grill master. And there are those few days where I'll feel like just cooking and will stash some meals in the freezer that I can pull out when I'm lazy. I realize this omission may make me a nerd. Oh well. But I'm a well fed nerd!
Mom2Amara said…
I have always tried to meal plan but I'm too much like your kids. If Thursday is taco night, what happens if I'm craving chicken and rice that afternoon? I feel obligated to keep with the plan but then feel unfulfilled come the end of dinner!

Found you by way of TwitterMoms. It's very nice to meet you!

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