I (Betsy) try really hard to feed my family healthy, inexpensive meals. This is often a big challenge because inexpensive usually means more work (chopping vegetables instead of buying pre-chopped, etc.), healthy stuff is often more expensive than junk food (mac and cheese is awfully cheap!), and my children, like their peers, often prefer salty, sugary food over a healthy alternative. So, planning my weekly menus can take forever as I try to figure out what everyone will eat, what's healthy/nutritious, and what is most affordable given that week's sale.
Here's a solution that has helped me tremendously for lunch time options that I'm expanding now for dinner and breakfast: one meal a week is junk food. I plan it that way! I've been doing that for lunch since I first got pregnant with my twins. For the duration of that pregnancy, my toddler and I had mac and cheese every Friday. Sometimes we threw in a side course of fruit, sometimes not. Why does that help? For some reason, it's much easier to "be strong" the rest of the week if I know there's a free day coming up (dieters often use this strategy, allowing themselves to eat dessert one day a week). Mentally, I know one meal is taken care of, is easy, something I don't have to think about. This also helps me resist swinging through various drive thrus if I'm out running errands with the kids. My hope is that the same principle will help us, at dinner, avoid ordering pizza or getting takeout from the local cheap Chinese place quite as often. After all, we'll still be coming out ahead in the cost category even if we're not doing any better nutritionally at home.
So, I'm expanding junk food to include one breakfast and one dinner a week. I'll be posting some easy recipes/meal ideas in the coming days on full tummies, so check it out if you're interested. We'll no doubt be eating our junk food dinner on Saturday nights since that's generally the day my husband and I have been working in the yard or perhaps gone out with the kids--a day when I don't have as much time in the kitchen. In addition to hot dogs, corndogs, fish sticks, pb&j, and grilled cheese, there are lots of other options that feel a little more like a real meal, but are really no more effort. Homemade hot pockets, anyone?
I'll also be posting some sandwich/wrap ideas; these can be quite healthy, but often feel more relaxed than a "meat and three" meal. Perfect for those nice, warm days when you just want to pack up a meal and head to the park for a picnic (or eat on your screened in porch!).
Food Books: Annual Round-Up!
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