My house is really quiet right now and there is a light rain falling outside. I'll be honest, it doesn't suck! Over the past few months life seems to have gotten busier. Not overtly but more in a things-are-leaking-in-from-all-sides sort of way. The little blocks of time I have for myself seem to have shrunken or, rather, are filled with things that feel more consuming than enriching. Bouncing from dry cleaning stops to meetings to homework to email checking, time has to be well-scheduled and tasks prioritized. I crave big blocks of time for writing and reading and projects and little blocks of time for coffee with friends and quiet dinners with my husband. This phase of life is messy and busy and squeezy but it is beautiful too. My boys still believe in magical things like Santa and still have so many first-times that light up their faces and make them say, "oh guacamole!" (a phrase coined by my youngest). We have done a lot of exploring (my word for 2012) this year and I am very thankful for that. My life is full of "too-good-to-be-trues" and realness too. We hike and laugh and play but we work and complain and run late and mess up the house too.
To keep healthy meals on the table amidst the "getting real" of life, I have to plan ahead. I have tried all kinds of meal planning- from walking the aisles of the grocery store to find things that look good, to planning a full month of meals ahead of time. I don't like to grocery shop for huge lists of things or go to the store every other day for just a few items. I've found that planning for about a week works well for me. I can pull a plan together fairly quickly and I don't need to shop for hours and hours to pull it off.
For my meal plan, I use a simple printable page (paper, despite my 12 years of IT experience!) that also helps me to build my grocery list. For the groceries, my husband and I share a common list using the Any List iPhone app. That works well for us!
Because I know you're busy too, I am sharing my meal planning template (with instructions), here.
You'll see that each dinner has two lines- one blank and one labeled "kids". I try to give my kids what we are eating most of the time but they are simple eaters and don't care much for sauces and such. While my goal is to cook only one family meal (and to help my kids learn to love a wider variety of foods), I also give them at least one thing that I know they will eat along with the new stuff.
I'll be back soon with a recipe for vegan tempeh wellington!