Keeper of the Home is hosting the "Plan It, Don't Panic: Meal Planning Challenge" for the next six weeks to give those of us who need it (ahem) some accountability in the meal planning process. Lately life has been so busy that grocery shopping gets smushed into whatever time slot happens to be available, and meal planning has been rudimentary. As a result, we've been eating way too much pizza, and I end up feeding the kids toast for breakfast every day. A low point happened at Costco two weeks ago when I bought a giant box of packaged granola bars to feed the kids snacks in the van on the way home. Obviously they did not need 60 + granola bars to eat on the way home, so they ended up gorging on them for breakfasts and snacks, at which point it became apparent that my boys had eaten 60+ granola bars in less than a week. (Like -- a lot less than a week.) Granted, we were just coming home from vacation, but 60 granola bars??
I signed up with the Plan It, Don't Panic Challenge as soon as I saw it.
Our vital stats:
- Family of 9
- 6 boys, ages 14-1
- 1 nursing mom
- grain-free diet (at least for some of us)
Since I know that people are curious about the grain-free diet, I thought I would try to blog this challenge in a little more detail. I hope to post not only my meal plans, but what we (and I, the most grain-free of our family) actually ate during the week. As usual, I'll be keeping it real. I like Mark Sisson's "Don't Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good" and 80 % principles when it comes to eating a grain-free/paleo/primal diet. I am not perfect. I have 7 kids. Things are going to fall apart sometimes. They probably fall apart at your house, too. But that's okay. You don't have to be a superhero to make changes in the way you eat.
This what I'm hoping to accomplish with this challenge:
- Stop eating so much pizza for dinner just because I haven't figured out dinner or managed any prep work.
- Make better use of my (minimal) garden produce as well as the store produce
- Start working in more grain-free breakfasts and lunches for the kids.
- Make it a regular habit to have some real snacks on hand that are a change from the everyday fruit and cheese, which are starting to get a little boring. In addition, I need snacks that I can eat, with a bit of protein in the afternoon.
- Start making my own yogurt and kefir again.
- Keep the grocery budget at a decent level. I'm not aiming for the lowest level, but I do want to keep a top on it by weeding out the impulse buys (like 60+ granola bars).
So how am I doing this first week?
Thursday night I sat down and got some coupons together. I don't spend a lot of time couponing, and am probably one of the more un-extreme couponers you'll find, but I do find that coupons help us on paper and cleaning products and our Whole Foods shopping especially. I wanted Andy to make a run to Whole Foods after work on Friday, so I had to get everything together for him. Our standard Whole Foods run usually includes whole fat yogurt, unhomogenized whole milk (not raw), good quality heavy cream (minus the carageenen), and whatever organic fruit is on sale for a good price. We also stock up on free-range chicken and pastured butter if we need any (we didn't this week). This week, in addition to the dairy, Andy bought a little over 4.5 lbs of plums, some chocolate for coconut bark, and got a deal on Clif bars by stacking some manufacturers coupons with Whole Foods coupons. (He'll take the Clif bars with him when he travels. No, they aren't grain-free.)
On Friday night I watched the videos from the Cook More Real Food Challenge (taking inventories of pantry, freezer, and fridge, and meal planning, all of which are good), so I was ready to jump in Saturday morning as long as Katydid and Andy helped by watching Leo, who was sick and prefers to live outside these days. (Fortunately, they came to my rescue). I finally got around to cleaning out the fridge, which I have needed to do for a few weeks now. We recently bought a second fridge to store veggies and milk and cut down on trips to the store, but the luxury of space brought with it a disturbing habit on the part of all of us to disregard all former organizational rules for using the fridge in the kitchen.
On Saturday afternoon, I finished up the grocery shopping at Kroger. (Sure seemed like they raised their prices again. Their "mega-event" didn't seem so mega to me.)
Stuff in the fridge and freezer I'll be using in my meal plan this week:
- black bean salad (homemade)
- romaine lettuce
- carrots that are looking a little hairy
- baby carrots in a giant bag from Costco (mainly for lunches)
- shrimp stock (freezer)
- chicken broth (freezer)
- stew meat (from a side of beef, freezer)
- gluten-free chicken sausages (from that Costco trip)
- almond flour (which I buy in bulk from Honeyville Grains)
- raspberry "syrup" -- organic frozen raspberries from Costco that had thawed and refrozen into a giant block, cooked down with honey because I had to do something with 3 lbs of raspberries at once... a yummy and sugar-free topping for yogurt and pancakes
Snacks and sweet stuff for the week:
I have the Healthy Snacks to Go e-book and am excited to try many of Katie's ideas. But... everybody in the house (including me) is sick right now with a cold, so we'll see how much gets accomplished.
Some simple ideas for this week:
- hardboiled eggs
- chicken broth (good for a cold!)
- apples and bananas with peanut, almond, or sunbutter
- applesauce rollups (from the Healthy Snacks book)
- coconut bark (from Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals)
A Note on the Calendar:
Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are Ember Days in the Church. We'll be meatless for those days. Meatless and grain-free can be difficult, especially when your family doesn't like beans or lentils.
I am not awake enough in the morning to cook. What I am aiming for this week is to grind up some nuts and seeds ahead of time in order to make grain-free porridge, which will be a nice change from my regular eggs. (Our chickens are only beginning to lay, so I'm still buying cage-free eggs from the store.) Hopefully some of the kids will enjoy it, too.
My goal is to have leftovers. With 6 boys, sometimes you plan for leftovers and in spite of your best efforts, you realize what you have left over is crumbs. My own go-to lunch for days when there are crumbs is a peanut or almond butter/coconut milk smoothie.
In other words, I'm still working on lunch. I'll be getting up to speed on dinners first.
Sunday -- Black bean soup (leftover black bean salad, stew meat from the freezer)
(I did make this and it turned out well, but the little boys refused to eat it again for lunch on Monday and had cheese sandwiches instead.)
Monday -- chicken wings with baby carrots, fruit, possibly some bleu cheese dip if I feel up to it
Tuesday -- shrimp bisque (I'll be altering this recipe, since I don't have cognac or sherry, and I won't be adding flour) and salad
Wednesday (meatless) -- Spanish Omelet (I add some cheese to mine, and of course, I use more eggs!), roasted eggplant from the garden, fruit
Thursday -- gluten-free chicken sausages, green beans from the garden, fruit
Friday (meatless) -- almond flour pancakes with raspberry "syrup"
Saturday (meatless) -- cheese pizza out
Well! I'm not sure how I spun a menu plan into such a long post, but if you're still with me, check out all the other menu planners at Plan It, Don't Panic! Week One !