It’s that time of year again, when the kids and I get together and revamp our annual meal plan.
I assigned most of the kids a day of the week, and they got to pick what we eat for breakfast, lunch, and snack that day. They also pick the theme for dinner. (You can see more about how I do the annual meal plan here, and why I plan this way here.)
Each year, I really think things are going to drastically change. I mean after eating the same things for a year, you think they’d all be ready for something different.
But each year, our meal plans are strangely similar. The kids know what they like, and they love the routine.
I did implement a new rule this year though. They couldn’t pick what they picked last year.
So what’s on the menu plan this year?
Annual Meal Plan 2018-2019
A couple of things to note:
Oatmeal is back on the menu for breakfast!
I’m so excited about this, since it’s such a frugal breakfast. Since we implemented this plan three weeks ago, we’ve enjoyed baked oatmeal, blueberry and cream oatmeal, and maple and brown sugar. I love recreating the flavors I loved from the packets when I was a kid!
Biscuits and Gravy 😀
Jeffrey picked my absolute favorite breakfast food this year! Every Friday we have a nice batch of biscuits and gravy.
I can’t wait until we butcher the pigs this fall and get some really tasty sausage again. That makes such a huge difference.
This breakfast is definitely filling! And it’s one I can make in the morning before Bryan leaves and keep it warm until all the kids wake up. That’s nice.
Simon loves his peanut butter tacos. A couple of other kids do too. The rest of us?
It’s not a favorite.
So on his days the kids can pick between a peanut butter or a cheese taco. It’s a simple choice that helps ensure everyone eats something they enjoy.
Pigs in a Blanket
One of our very first annual meal plans had pigs in a blanket on there for lunch. Jeff wanted those again this year.
I want to point out that when I used to cook these, I used six hot dogs cut into three pieces each.
Now the kids easily eat double that amount. It’s crazy how much they (and their appetites!) have grown in just a few years.
Cheese and crackers are a popular, filling snack. They’re featured twice a week this year. Thankfully they aren’t on back to back days.
Smoothies are another repeat from last year. They’re a fun way to get some extra fruit into the day. This year I’m going to experiment more with adding spinach to them. I’ll see how that goes over!
Ellie loves popsicles and really wanted them for snack on her day. I told her that would work, but that no one would want to eat a popsicle in the winter when it’s freezing out.
So she suggested cake.
This means we have a seasonal snack for the first time. I think it’ll bring a nice change to the menu this winter.
Dinner is planned a little differently. The kids pick their theme and then help me select five different meals for the month. Here’s a peek at our dinner rotation for the year:
We only have one major change for dinner this year. Jeffrey wanted Fry Day Friday. He was so excited when none of his siblings picked Friday for their day before it was his turn.
I think Fry Day will be fun. It’s kind of a mix of several different types of foods and even a few finger foods that’ll make for good family movie or game night eating.
Taco Tuesday is back. I’m thinking this will be a recurring theme in our household for many years to come. The kids love The Lego Movie after all. 😀
Changing Recipe Sources
You’ll notice there are fewer links on my themed dinner planner this year.
I realized last year one of my biggest time wasters was searching for recipes online.
It wasn’t the searching per se. It was the getting sucked into the comments. I’d read page after page of comments for some reason. I just couldn’t help myself.
So, I’m back to using actual cookbooks for most things. There are a few favorites I have linked (for instance, this clam chowder is delicious and uses a whole can of Costco clams!)
Otherwise, I am using real cookbooks where I can’t get as distracted in the kitchen.
I also have several of the recipes I use memorized, since they’ve been on our meal plan for several years now. For instance, I don’t have to use a recipe for orange chicken or the cheater Korean rice bowl anymore. I’ve just made them so often that I have the steps all down and have even adapted them a bit for my family’s tastes.
This is one of my favorite cookbooks. I bought it at a sale when I was teaching in Ephrata, and I’ve used it ever since (aff. link).
Balancing the Menu to the Budget
What you see posted here, is not the first version of our meal plan. You see, there’s an important step after writing down all the meal ideas.
Once you have everything written down, it’s time to make the corresponding shopping list. I shop once a month, so I buy enough of everything to last for a month (well except for the things that don’t last that long! Then we make a quick run to the local store.)
I do my shopping list in Excel. I include quantity and price for everything I want to buy. This allows me to see a total easily. (I round up!)
Well, when I entered everything for our original list, I was over budget by over three hundred dollars a month! I couldn’t believe it.
So I started looking more carefully at the list. My kids had picked shrimp a lot (we had five different shrimp meals listed!) That’s an expensive protein. So I switched some with chicken and had them pick a second choice if that wasn’t feasible.
I realized we had a ton of pork roasts left in the freezer, and since we’re planning on butchering another pig in the fall, I’d have more. Subbing out pork roast for a more expensive meal for American night made sense.
After several substitutions, I redid the shopping list. This time we were on budget. Phew!
So, don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work out at first. You can make adjustments and look for ways to save.
If you’re interested in learning more about how I make the shopping list, or run my days in general, check out my course Balancing Diapers and Deadlines. It’s full of different lessons to help busy moms get more done with less stress!