fall menu transitions

Ahh, new beginning part B.  Fall, and particularly the beginning of the school year, is usually marked by a change in schedule, a slight change in weather, and a big change in outlook.  During the summer I plan weekly; one week is vacation, one week we may visit friends or local attractions, and another week we may focus on home improvement or cleaning projects.  And because we like to play, there were frequent last minute changes in our plans.

In the kitchen, I have been making gallons of kombucha and yogurt this summer.  Houston weather is fabulous for fermented foods, and it has been so fun to experiment.

Menu planning revolved around what we were doing that week, as I coordinated meals, groceries, and going out to eat with what we are doing.   That said, there were frequent changes in plans, and my freezer meals became my best friends for those days when we decided to change plans for the better at the last minute, or those days that it was just too hot to go to the grocery store and we stayed home and painted our toe nails instead;)

I pretty much kept up with my goal of eating a salad a day, and am feeling much healthier for it.  That’s one habit that I think I’ll keep up for the fall because I feel sooo much better when one meal a day is a little meat or beans and a big salad.

Now it is the fall semester, and time to streamline and organize my routine my menu plan to fit with the activities we have each day.  I’m keeping it pretty simple these days; I plan ahead by putting my meal plan on an excel spreadsheet, then transfer it to google calendar.  First I write down any out of the ordinary activities that might affect plans in the coming two weeks:  company, dinner out with friends, or afternoon activities that may run into my dinner prep hour.  I also like to have a grocery list handy to put down any other items I need at this time.  Looking at a meal plan from a few weeks back can also help me when I need a little inspiration, and so does a simple breakfast/lunch/dinner rotation.

Here’s what that looks like around here:

Breakfast:  day 1:  oats (steelcut, regular, soaked, or granola) with milk or yogurt and fruit.  Day 2:  eggs (scrambled, fried, or poached with a little bread or fruit)  Day 3:  french toast/pancakes/waffles with yogurt and fruit.  Saturdays are waffle day, which we love topped with individualized combinations of flaxseed, fruits, nuts, yogurt, and maple syrup.

Lunch: Usually a salad or leftovers for the girls and me; packed lunches for the guys.  So far my sweet hubby has been doing well on leftovers, sandwiches, or salad and leftover chicken/steak/fish.  I’m finding that my sweet kindergartener doesn’t eat nearly as much at school as he does at home. Anyone else have this problem?  We’ve been managing with quick & easy to eat combinations of protein, whole grains, veggies, fruit, and treat:

Protein:  cheese sticks, nitrate-free lunch meats, yogurt, and/or beef jerky

Grain:  triscuits, bread for a sandwich, pita wrap,

Fruit:  banana, grapes, or sliced apples/plums/pears/melons…whatever is on sale!

veggies:  pickles, carrot sticks, peppers, cucumbers, and celery.  Sometimes I’ll add a little almond butter or yogurt dip to the bento box for these:)

treat:  homemade cookies, granola bar, or chocolate milk.

Dinner:  I usually think of dinner as having a “foundation” or protein, a “structure” of veggies and whole grains, then “decorations” or the spices and ethnic flavors.  Can you tell I’ve been reading home decorating books this summer? 😉

Each week I like to have at least one of each of the following for our main course or “foundation”: fish, beans, chicken, sale/freezer meat, and leftovers.  A couple times a month we will make homemade pizza, and then the cheese and bits of ham or turkey count for our foundational protein.

The structure may be salad in taco salad, broth and veggies for a chicken or bean soup, marinara sauce/noodles and green beans for spaghetti or chicken parmesan, or mixed veggies and rice in stirfry.

To vary up the flavors and “decorate” our meals, I like to use a variety of ethnic flavors.  For example, we may have regular grilled chicken Sunday night, then use leftovers for taco salad Tuesday (that gives a little space between chicken meals).  Once a week we do stirfry, either a ginger-garlic or green curry.  Beans may be in a tex-mex chili,  Cuban black bean soup, Italian minestrone, or simply served over brown rice.  Admittedly, I’ll often change the flavor scheme at the last minute depending on what I’m craving that night, but since I have the meal foundation in place and keep a variety of spices on hand that works well for me.

And that’s it.  How do you keep meals simple during the school year?

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