What’s The Special?

Let’s talk kitchen savvy again, shall we?

Now you know I am a fervent believer in pre-planning menus and sticking to said menu as much as possible.  (Hey, even the M&M Clan gets thrown off course every now and then.  But I’ll get to that in a second.)  But it seems more than a few of you are unsure what exactly to put on the schedule.  I can tell you what works for my CaveFamily (and I’m gonna) but eventually, you gotta determine what suits you and yours.  In the meantime, here is an actual menu from the M&M Estate.

M&Ms Weekly Menu

You’ll notice we do a lot of salads.  They’re easy, they use many of the same ingredients (easier shopping) and they make for handy grab-n-go’s in the case of a food or schedule emergency.

We also utilize leftovers as soon as possible.  Sometimes we have a lot, sometimes a little.  This is why, although the menu I’ve shown you is our ideal, it also fluctuates.  We may not have Monday’s dinner Monday night.  It may become Tuesday’s dinner or Wednesday’s lunch.  So that I know what we’ve got in the fridge and the pantry, we simply check off meals as we make them.  That way I know what produce I’ve used and what I’d better get cookin’.

Here’s the other caveat with going package-less (which is the ultimate goal): ya gotta use everything in a few days or it goes to waste.  I am getting better at knowing what will last and how long and if I need to shop once, twice, or even three times (though the third trip is generally a filler) per week.  I’m learning to shop seasonally as well and this bodes well for everyone’s taste buds.  I am a proud supporter of local farmer’s markets and am in love with my newest app acquisition, Locavore.

Now you may be noticing that there are crackers and muffins on the menu.  I bake – a lot.  You may not find me scarfing everything down (I try to keep my intake to a FitGal minimum), but those kiddos need the extra calories and varied flavors and textures.  Yes, they are coming around to my side of the Great Vegetable War.  Yes, they thoroughly enjoy their fruits.  But they’re kids.  And contrary to popular belief, I am not, after all, a monster.  I just play one on Facebook.

Things I used to buy, I make.  It’s easier than I would have believed, which means it’s easier than you believe.  I bake, on average, 5 days a week.  Those chocolate chip muffins disappear at an alarming rate and I try to keep the stock high (we have two with metabolisms faster than the Flash and keeping weight up during sports seasons – which is every season – can be an uphill battle).  What I’ve found is that I actually kinda like the baking.  I like knowing exactly what my family is eating; I like their appreciation for the stuff I made.  It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Hubby is the griller.  Ideally, in a world without flag football, all of the grilling is done on one or two days.  The meat is then stored, either sliced, cubed, or whole, so it can be quickly prepared for dinners and lunches.  This same prep is behind the veggies, salads, and fruits.  The easier it is to grab, the easier it is to eat, and the more likely everyone will eat it.

I’ve been suprised at the enthusiasm the kids show for some of the new foods.  I made hardboiled eggs for myself, but found they loved them.  Hello, easy snack!  I will boil a dozen at a time, store them in an easily reachable fridge drawer, and they help themselves.  The Shakeology is mostly for me, although two out of four kids will steal sips or have their own.  Again, convenience does not have to equal crap.

Which brings me to another point.  Snacks ebb and flow according to supply and demand.  The kids pack four out of five school days.  Their lunch boxes hold their main entree, a fruit, a veggie, and a bottle of water.  Some days they take a variety of muffin or cookie as well (coconut flour, no sugar, etc.).  When they come home, they finish off anything left in the lunchbox before starting in on another snack.  Nothing goes to waste.  This is a key factor here, because feeding a family of six is never going to be cheap, and organic meats don’t grow on trees.  (Though during hunting season, it does appear in our backyard.)

Where do the recipes come from?  Mostly from Pinterest (find me there and take a gander at my Paleo board) and from Make It Paleo by Bill Staley and Hayley Mason.  I get a few (like the Clan’s all-time favorite balsamic chicken drumsticks) from http://www.marksdailyapple.com/.  I’m always hunting and foraging, just like a CaveGal should.

Now that I’ve overwhelmed you with info, here are some basic guidelines when making my own menus: It is organic.  It does not come pre-made.  It is fresh.  It is not corn-fed.  It is not dairy.  It is pretty darn close to the way it was when it was alive.  It is not made of ingredients that I cannot pronounce or do not have knowledge of.

Sounds hard.  It isn’t.  And the rewards are great.  Not only do we all have more sustained energy for daily life and extra activities, we have less temper tantrums, less cravings, less sickness overall.  It’s worth your time and your effort.  YOU are worth your time and your effort.

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