Lessons in Hospitality :: Meal Planning Magic

Eating around the table with family is important.  You know that.  You also know that it can be rather difficult when you have a bunch of kids or even one kid!  It is hard to get it all going the same direction around 5:00 pm.  We are supposed to have these balanced, nutritional , economical and yummy! meals that introduce new wacky veggies and sometimes it just is not working!  At least it was hard around the Johnson house.

I want to share some of the survival skills I learned over the years to make the Supper Hour and meal planning madness not quite so hard.

  One tip I have learned over the years is: I pace myself when it comes to planning meals and setting up the week.

One way I do this is to plan a week’s worth of menus on Saturday or Sunday and then shop for the whole week. This planning helps you take advantage of what is on sale at the grocery store and paces How Often you actually cook during the week.   This planning helps in many ways.

For instance, if I grill out chicken on Monday night, I use some of the leftover for a delicious salad topped with chicken.  Or I use the chicken in tettrazini  or a pasta dish.  Chicken Redux looks pretty good that way.  And this also saves time which is  good.  Very good.

I plan out what I am cooking and how I will use my leftovers.

Planning how I use my leftovers means I am not COOKING something big and complicated  every night.  I am pacing myself.

Another benefit of planning is that I make sure that every recipe for one night is  not a new, complicated recipe.  Maybe only one component to the meal is new to me, the other players are easy to me recipes  or I am using leftovers.

If I am planning out the week, I see these relationships in black and white and I am a better planner.

Tip #2 : I Always have a green salad.

Or almost always.  Five of the seven nights.  Kids almost always like a green salad.  So I can give myself a Check +  on the vegetable that night.  I also can introduce one new veggie that may or my not be a favorite. Cheesy, creamy baked spinach comes to mind. It comes to mind as a Not Favorite.  But I know they like the salad I am serving and are eating one green Something that night.  And I am also introducing something new.  Or something that was not their favorite.

When I do introduce a new veggie, I remind them of Our Rule-

You have to have a bite.  One Bite.

I tried not to have squash, spinach and lima beans all on the same night.  My nutritionist friend told me long ago you had to introduce foods 25, 50, 75 times before kids would acquire a taste for it. I can’t remember the number, but it was a lot!   So let your kids drown their green salad in Ranch dressing and try tastes of the newer stuff.  Eventually, they will like their broccoli.  Brussel sprouts, I can’t promise.

Tip #3: Make a schedule and have the same thing over and over.

Yep, that is right, when you make your menu plan for the week,  you can make Monday-Meatloaf night.  Tuesday -Chicken night.  Wednesday-Left-overs. Thursdays-Sandwich night. Etc.  Make the things your family likes.  No worries if you have the same things over and over.  Make things that are easy for you to get on the table.  This is also another plug for doing a meal planning schedule on Sunday night. As you look at your week, make sure you factor in when you will be gone all day or have doctor appointments, nights you might need to have Sandwich and Soup night.  Planning is the key.

You can also spice up the meals each week with more adventurous side dishes.  I felt like I didn’t have enough brain space to make one more decision about what is for dinner,  so having it on the rotating schedule helped me.  Remember, too, this schedule is for a time. Your kids won’t always be little or you won’t always be so so busy.  Having a set schedule helps get you through a busy season.


My last tip is: When I have a Leftovers Meal, I try to make or buy one thing new.

So here you are trying to make-over the chicken or the meatloaf you had earlier that week.  Well introduce something new- maybe a new bread or have a different yum-oh sauce to go over the leftover chicken.  Or try a new side dish.

I try to have one thing new or special when I serve the same or redone meat dish.  This way I am not cooking everything, every night, and we are not bored with the same exact meal.

I love this Sea Salt Cibiatta bread from Whole Foods!  Sea salt ciabatta bread

This bread was sometimes the splurge I made to make the meal look new again.  Think of it as an accessory for your plate.

Or try a new recipe on  Left-Over Night.  Serve leftovers with a new Veggie dish or pasta side.  Here are some ideas for side dishes.

Yummy potatoes or Corn Saute

What is your favorite way to make leftovers look new? Do you have a schedule that you follow?  Do Tell and give me a SURSEE!



  1. Where-o-where were you and your wise advice when my boys were little? I love that you’re speaking life into the hearts of moms who feel overwhelmed when it comes to meal planning!

  2. Oh thank you for these ideas! I usually do make the same things ALOT…but I was so glad to read from your “wise” experience that it is okay!! Thank you for these great, realistic ideas!

  3. a timely post from you. thank you! i love to look at food blogs and recipes but sometimes that’s as far as it gets and then i’m still left with “what to make??” i just needed permission to do repeats. last night i put steel cut oats in the crockpot for breakfast this morning and we will have the SAME breakfast every morning this week. and they will have the same sandwich everyday for lunch this week. next week something new. today was the first morning that i wasn’t yelling, “hurry up!!”

    • Yahoo, gal! That is awesome. I love the idea of the steel cut oats in the crockpot. Email me how to do that- Brilliant! The same bfast and lunch is great. It beats the stress of deciding every day. Remember, this is just for a season. You can do it.

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