I am excited to bring to you the 3rd and final article in the Mealtime Management series about cheating as much as possible. How often do you hear that?! Have you ever been told that it’s okay to cheat? Well, today is your lucky day because you get to cheat! I am going to show you how to sneak convenient things into your weekly grocery list, the way we manage food in the house, and the way we get our kids to help figure out what we are eating for different meals.
Just like those video games where you can put in a code and not have to fight the big bad guy, today we are putting in the code to help us win the mealtime game. Remember, it gets to be easy!
If you were able to plan your dinners for the month, I am so proud of you. We plan that we have something to flex. We plan so that we have something functional enough to be flexible. The success of the plan lies in having enough structure to make the decision-making portion easy. We want the decision-making to be easy. Whether you flex your plan all over the place or follow it to a T, it’s okay. The plan is successful if you have something to flex.
I have given you our matchup and grocery list but you can also create your own to tweak it however you want.
Breakfast: We typically have an egg-based meal, bread-based meal, or cereal-based meal.
For example, if you pick an egg base (fried, scrambled, poached, etc), then your meat (ham, bacon sausage, etc), and finally your starch (toast, potato, tortilla, etc). You can mix and match, but pick one from each column.
More than half of the battle to make meals quickly, if you haven’t planned a specific meal is having a base standard pile of ingredients on hand to have something whenever you want to. You will find that with the grocery list our family has gradually built in standard items that we need in our home. I look at my specific menus to see if we need anything extra after making sure I have my base ingredients. One easy way to do this is to have separate grocery lists for breakfast and lunch.
Lunch: Lunch is a little different, but is still the basic idea of picking 1 item from each column. This will help your children to empower them to choose their breakfast or lunch. The ultimate goal of creating lists like these is to work yourself out of this job. Get your kids to help you. Even little ones can do some things, which is so helpful and empowering for them. On the lunch match up we have some main dishes like pb&j, leftovers, soup, chips and cheese, and mac and cheese. You don’t even have to have a specific main dish you can do several different sides. The nice thing is that you have your lunch grocery list that corresponds with your lunch match-up. The match-up is designed to have your children be more independent.
Salad mastermind: The salad mastermind is something that I have enjoyed when I am looking for a boost to salads at lunch or dinner. The match-up list for this is great because it allows you to mix and match salads.
If your kids aren’t big fans of salad I encourage you to do a few different things with this:
- Make a big platter and layer it. Use a big pan and put your greens down, then your fruits, onions, nuts, bacon bits, etc. If you put it in a bowl all of the little stuff falls to the bottom and then they can’t see the yummy stuff.
- Do a small salad as a first course before they get any other food.
Different ways your kids can help: Some requested age-appropriate tasks; however, I don’t believe in age-appropriate tasks because it is more about whether or not they have been trained to do the job yet. Justin, when he was 18 months old could unload the dishwasher and put all the dishes away. I arranged our kitchen where there wasn’t anything up high. Young kids can do many things if they are trained.
I have arranged the list into categories of beginner, intermediate, and advanced. I made sure to do this in a way that you can even mix and match tasks between levels to help challenge your kids and keep them learning new things.
You’ll notice that across the lines that the tasks build on one another. For example, in the beginner, I have listed ‘stirring things with help’. In the intermediate, they should be able to stir with help and use a mixer or blender. In the advanced category, they should be able to stir on a stove.
In addition to that list, I am going to harp on one thing: Knives. Let’s talk about kids chopping fruits and vegetables. From the beginning, you need to be okay with giving your child a sharp knife. You can start them off with a butter knife on some things (banana, peach slices, etc) to help them get the technique down. When they are ready to move onto items that require a sharp knife, the sharper the knife, the safer it is for them to use it. You are teaching them to respect a sharp tool. At 3 or 4 I gave my kids a sharp knife and we talked about respecting the knife because #1 I will not let you use it if you aren’t responsible and #2 the knife will cut your finger off. I still gave them soft things, but with a sharp knife, you don’t have to push hard to get through. Starting them off with an apple or cucumber and a sharp knife they will not have to use a lot of pressure. Even if they do happen to cut themselves, the cut will be less problematic because they didn’t have to put a lot of pressure on the tool.
Grocery List: When we build the grocery list, we build it together as a team. The first part of building a good grocery list is to look in your fridge, pantry, and freezer to see what you have available. You also want to look at your match-ups at the same time. Put things in the same place so when you are trying to make your list you can look in your fridge and spot the missing items and know you need to add them. I organize my grocery list into categories such as dairy, meat, staples, etc. I make sure to do my list the same way every time so that it makes it easy to go through the grocery store. Then I go back through with my dinner menu to see what extras we need for those meals.
Ordering Groceries: It’s okay to order your groceries! It’s okay to have them delivered! It’s okay to have a meal service! You are NOT a bad mom if you choose to make something a priority and delegate those things. Nobody does it all! The only way we have the illusion that we do it all is that we delegate tasks. You decide the things that most require your attention and delegate the rest. Life is about loving God, loving others, and enjoying it. We have to do what it takes to make sure we are spreading that message to others.
- I carry a notebook with me at all times: make notes about meal ideas or groceries you need in the lull of your day.
- Tear off a section of the list and give it to your older children. They may come up with the wrong stuff sometimes, but use it as a learning experience.
- Reminder apps and to-do lists that you can share with your spouse or other family members are great. These typically sync with the other person’s phone.
Delegating: As a mom, you are a project manager. Think of meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking as your job as a project manager then this statement will resonate with you. Any project with 3 or more employees needs a non-working foreman. Being a mom and a wife is the most important job of my life. It is the highest calling and greatest potential for the legacy that I can leave. Look at your role as a non-working foreman that can delegate to the people under you. This will allow you to become more available to your family. You will be less burnt out and have more margin.
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