Ever had a food fight? No, not the kind where there's slippery peas and corn all over the floor and mashed potato ends up stuck to the ceiling in the school lunch room- the kind with your kiddo (or heck, maybe even your spouse!). Being a mom and having more than one mouth to feed changes the game when it comes to planning meals. It's easy enough to choose recipes YOU like, but when it comes down to dinner, one person doesn't like this meal, one person doesn't like that ingredient, it ends up in a fight, usually with tears, at least one person hungry and unfortunately, what I see SO often with clients is that they end up making multiple meals. NO thank you. I can not even imagine. Actually, I can- the only time I've done that is when I worked at a restaurant! You do not need to be a short order cook, mama! We are trying to simplify your family's nutrition, NOT make it more complicated because you're trying to make healthier changes, plan ahead and the kids just aren't having it. There's a lot I could say on this, but today I'm going to focus on my NUMBER ONE strategy for planning ahead and making mealtime easier and that is creating a Family Favorites List.
What is a Family Favorites List? Ever asked your family their favorite meals are you create? Not assumed what their favorites are-- but actually ASKED them? You might be surprised at their responses. When I asked my four year old, she gave me examples like my Asian Chicken Meatballs (which I knew), and Tex Mex Turkey Taco Pie; but she also really likes my Turmeric Beef (a 15-minute dinner), Sweet Potato, Kale and Beef Stew and my Coconut Lime Chicken. She also listed Chipotle, which I'm not sure what to think about, but hey- she gave me some good insight, anyway!
My husband really likes taco bowls, chili and steak salads. He always prefers red meat over light, but he does love pork and he'll settle for chicken thighs to mix it up.
So I started making a list. Both of recipes that I create, and simple dinners we make often (like turmeric beef, taco bowls and steak salad).
There are a few cookbook recipes we really, really love. Sarah Fragoso's Puerto Rican Beef from her Everyday Paleo cookbook is a mainstay in our house. We love Cassy Joy's Fed + Fit Cookbook and Danielle Walker's Against All Grain. So we include recipes from these in our list, too.
Soon enough, I had a list of over 20 meals I could EASILY rotate between, throwing in a day each week for takeout or leftovers, and a few recipe tests throughout the month and I had a full month's worth of meals mapped out. Sure, this is going to change seasonally with what's available (we try and get most of our produce at the Farmer's Market when we can) but that's the beauty of creating a favorites list and constantly adding to it when a meal is a hit (or a 'do-over', as we like to call it).
When you have a list of 10+ favorite recipes, you can very easily create meal plans the whole family loves (or at least ones you know both of your kids will tolerate) and rotate between them, depending on the season, freeing up mental space and time searching for recipes and options every week. Though variety is important, so is consistency in creating healthy habits- knowing what works simplifies the process.
It's always fun to create and try new recipes, and there's room for that too (it's one of the reasons I recommend only planning 5 recipes a week, to leave the wiggle room for creation, takeout or date night). But on the day-to-day, you have ENOUGH to think about without trying to be uber-creative with your meal plan each week. When you know what you like, and what your family (really) likes, meal planning becomes a breeze and meal time becomes MUCH less stressful.
Do you have a family favorites list? What are some of your go-to recipes?
Our list includes:
Salsa Verde Chicken
Chicken Sausage with Cauli Rice + Peppers
Turmeric Beef + Broccoli
Roasted Chicken Thighs + Eggplant
Quesadillas on Siete Tortillas
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