The average American family household has a million different challenges every day. Dad’s boss was a jerk, Mom’s been running errands all day, teenage boy got picked on for his new haircut, and the baby girl just got her heart broken for the first time. Everyone comes home and says a resounding, “What’s for dinner?” And, if you haven’t planned, prepped, or even been to the grocery store in the last week, you will probably be tempted to just order in, or swing by the fast-food drive-thru on the way home.
Unfortunately, this can be the daily pattern for many, and become cyclic. “I don’t have time” becomes the anthem of parents everywhere as our waists collectively get wider and more and more are diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. Our dietary patterns are causing us to become sicker and sicker as a nation, and we are teaching our children that nutrition is an afterthought— just eat something and that’s enough.
This blog post is not meant to put you on a full-blown guilt trip, but to wake you up to the reality that the actions we take around fueling our bodies has consequences. It’s also to let you know that I am working on a resource for families like you to become more proactive rather than reactive! It will take me more than likely over a year to create my cookbook titled "Realistically Healthy: A Plant Based, Midwestern Family Nutrition Planner", but I will be giving tips along the way.
My cookbook only focuses on dinner. Why just dinner? Most people can figure out breakfast, even if it’s just a breakfast bar on the go with a piece of fruit. If kids are in school, lunch is already figured out for them (unless you want to pack it). Also, if dinners are planned appropriately, lunches should be very easy for adults to simply repackage the leftovers or make something new from them.
Though not all adult schedules are the same, I use a generic outline for those who work day shift Monday-Friday, creating consistent theme nights. I do understand that not everyone could just pick up my cookbook and follow it word for word and it work out perfectly for them, but at least it can be a starting point.
Monday: Soup, Salad, Sandwich
Tuesday: Taco Tuesday
Wednesday: Pasta Night
Thursday: Burger Night
Friday: Pizza Night
Saturday: Ethnic Food Night
Sunday: Midwest Tradition Night
By putting known theme nights in place, all members of your family have at least an idea of what’s for dinner before asking incessantly. Each day of the week has at least five complete meal choices instead of a “main dish” section and a “side dish” section. Want to limit the questioning even more AND get help with meal preparation? Have your whole family sit down before making your grocery list to help choose one meal for each day and assign tasks. The final product of the cookbook will let you know what needs prepped in advance so you don’t get to the evening and say, “Oh no! This needed to sit overnight!” I also highly suggest posting your week’s menu on the fridge with the prep instructions and assigned family member for each day. This is how you run your home kitchen more like a commercial one, while keeping all members of your family engaged with and responsible for their own nutrition. The more planning and preparation you put in early, the smoother your evenings will be.
I am often told that eating healthier is also more expensive. It’s true that food, especially good food, is not cheap. You truly may find that your first trips to the grocery store are pricier, but also remember that the plan is to not go out to eat (or keep it very limited). The key is to limit your inventory to only items that you need for your recipes. The magic happens when many of your recipes call for the same ingredients, just prepared in unique ways. This allows you to buy ingredients in bulk and save more money in the long run. Utilizing leftovers well is another way to stretch your dollar— my cookbook will also give suggestions for these, as well as cost breakdowns per meal.
The last element of my cookbook is the fact that it is how I cook, which is plant based with some seafood. Your family might be vegan or almost complete carnivores, so please, feel free to adjust the recipes to best meet their needs within your own food philosophy. My recipes are not intended to be holy gospel, but highly customizable. If your family wouldn’t eat broccoli without cheese sauce or couldn’t imagine chili without ground beef, then please, feel free to adjust the recipes as your family prefers, keeping in mind to reduce overall salt, fat, and sugar.
Continue to tune in for more tips and tricks along my cookbook writing journey!