What's for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner?

As a young mom with 8 kids and a limited grocery budget, meal planning and very specific grocery lists were essential. It’s a fact that the more often we go to the store, the more we spend. Logistics (8 under 12 years old) and finances made it tricky for me to shop more than 1-2 times every two weeks.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I planned my meals for two weeks, made sure the choices fit within my budget and shopped. If I stuck to my list (of course I didn’t always) I stayed within the allotted amount of money, knew what was going to be served for every breakfast, lunch and dinner (and snacks) for two weeks, and generally had left overs of both food and money.

The basic plan was this:

Summer/Fall

Breakfast

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

 

Rice with butter & honey

Cream of wheat with butter & maple syrup (homemade)

Eggs

Yogurt and granola w/fruit

Cracked wheat with butter and maple syrup

Cold cereal

Eggs

Lunch

Leftovers or Sandwiches & fruit

Leftovers or Sandwiches & fruit

Leftovers or Sandwiches & fruit

Leftovers or Sandwiches & fruit

Leftovers or Sandwiches & fruit

 

 

Dinner

Pasta

Chicken recipe

Soup w/bread

Mexican recipe (tacos, etc.)

Pizza (usually homemade)

Burgers/hot dogs, grilled cheese, etc

Waffles or French Toast

Snacks

Fruit & toast

Fruit & toast

Fruit & toast

Fruit & toast

Fruit & toast

Fruit & toast

Fruit & toast

 

The best thing about it was this method took out the stress of “what am going to make for dinner”. I didn’t have the luxury of ordering pizza very often, and rushing to the store when I needed to be driving kids to soccer practice or, worse, coaching a team, was not going to happen.

Over time I came up with 2 seasonal menus. Seasonal meaning Summer/Fall and Winter/Spring. Of course, there’s nothing rigid about this, it’s just what worked for me. 

I came up with 20 dinner menus my family enjoyed in the warm months and 20 dinner menus they enjoyed in the cooler months (yes there were some repeats). Then I plugged them into the meal calendar, repeating every 2-3 weeks. Now, you are thinking, “just 20 meals for spring and summer?” Think about what you serve your family. How many different things do you actually make and serve. You might be surprised.   

My breakfast and lunch menus were a bit different.

Breakfast were the same every Monday, Tuesday, etc., throughout the year. For example, every Monday was some form of egg dish, and every Saturday they got cold cereal. Yes – only once a week.

Lunches were simple, too. I homeschooled much of the time and that made things easier than packing lunches. Lunches at home were by the day as well. For example, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays might be sandwiches, and Tues and Thurs soup and pasta days (often left over from Monday and  Wednesday dinners. Packed lunches were typically sandwiches, some sort of chip and fruit. Of course, these meals evolved as the kids got bigger and if they packed their own.

Snacks at our house were limited to fruit and toast. We had a toast station set up with bread, butter, honey and jam (if they were lucky). They could help themselves. All 8 survived.

Now this was the basic system. It doesn’t mean we never overspent or went out to eat. It doesn’t mean we never had Pasta on the “wrong” day. What it meant was a plan that made my life so much easier.

I could look at my kids’ sport schedules and know that certain evenings were not times that I could spend hovering over the stove (not that I really ever wanted to!). Those evenings (usually Monday-Friday) I prepped early and kept very simple. Things like enchilada casserole, tacos, soups, pasta dishes that could be warmed up, “foil dinner” in the oven.

This simplified meal plan made a huge difference in my ability to stay within my grocery budget (most of the time), plan healthy meals I knew the family liked – but let’s face it, not every child will like every meal, every time – and, maybe best of all, look forward to meal prep and meals instead of wondering what the heck was going to be for dinner.


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