Mom Problems: Meal Planning

I’m not sure what changed or when.  For years I was good at meal planning.  I made a master list of all of my favorite recipes for everyday use, for entertaining and for quick/no-bake options.  I composed weekly meal plans for several months at a time.  For a while I juggled a mixed vegetarian and carnivore household, and later I juggled a non-dairy non-soy diet for myself and June while the boys continued to eat like humans.  I made my own granola cereal, chocolate and ice cream.  We even went through a period when June couldn’t eat, which sounds like it would make things a bit easier, but try maintaining a functional kitchen- and using it- when you have an active toddler around who can’t be allowed to access food.  I handled all of that fine, and enjoyed the challenge.  And I don’t know what changed, but recently

*I’ve become completely and utterly inept at meal planning*

Meal Planning

I never knew the were so many ways to mess up at it.  I’m still discovering new ones….

In addition to not starting slow-cooking meals on time, making too little or too much food, forgetting to refrigerate left overs, letting left overs spoil, forgetting key ingredients while shopping, forgetting key ingredients while cooking, letting key ingredients expire, using all of a key ingredient in one recipe when it’s meant for two, letting meat and produce spoil before their meal night is scheduled, and ALWAYS forgetting to prepare the sides, I also frequently….

….grocery shop too late or too early to order from the meat counter.

….find weird cuts of meat on sale that don’t quite perform right in recipes

….don’t notice when a recipe sneaks a whole other recipe into the *instructions* area (now serve with Spicy Mango Salsa!!)

….am disappointed when I attempt that trendy “freezer meal” thing (so, it still takes a ton of time to prep and THEN cook from frozen, and by nature it’s a large volume of one flavor/consistency you are stuck with as meals and left overs.  Am I the only one not seeing this as a “magical economical cooking hack”)

….somehow can never keep paired food in the house at the same time for the no-bake options….eggs and bacon, peanut butter and jelly, bread and lunch meat, cheese and crackers….

….buy too little milk for several weeks, and in subsequent weeks I double stock our milk twice or three times, creating mandatory milk binges in the house.

….stock up on frozen meals as a fool-proof way to have food available, but day after day I realize I’ve missed the 1-billion hour advance window that I need to put it in the oven for it to be ready by our early dinner time

….have no idea what canned goods we have because the kids have started using them in their pretend games.  I end up saying things like, “Rowan, go check your train and see if there are any diced tomatoes in there.” (The answer was no, and I substituted spaghetti sauce, which really is a whole other way to ruin a meal.)

I don’t know if it’s having a third kid, mom/nursing brain, or maybe I just decided I need a break from meeting the challenges of meal planning after fielding all of our crazy dietary needs for the last few  years. That, and it’s now nearly impossible to do a full grocery shopping trip with the three kids plus June’s emergency bag; the best I can do is bring my double stroller, hang a several reusable bags from the handle bar on some mom clips and shop until those are full. Whatever the reasons contributing, we seem to be single-handedly supporting the fast food industry near us.

Suggestions from veteran moms??  How do you handle the ever-changing stock of household food, dozens of expiration dates and time frames, perishablity of healthy fresh foods, starting prep at the right time in the day while juggling 100 other things, and the challenge of fitting time to sit down to meal plan, then shop, then, yes, actually cook then clear/refrigerate into your week?

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