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My Three Daughters’ Meal Planning Tips

October 1, 2022

Another Way for week of September 23, 2022

My Three Daughters’ Meal Planning Tips

Third in a three-part series on keeping family dinner. And don’t miss the cookbook giveaway offer at the end.

When I asked my oldest daughter how she does meal planning, she laughed and said it was like, “Oh dear, it’s 5 o’clock! I have no idea what we are having for supper.” She easily handed off the meal planning crown to her younger sisters, who we’ll hear from in a bit.

Michelle does have a “retroactive manner” of getting ideas for what to fix next. She faithfully keeps track of what she’s made recently on a calendar, which helps her dig back in the fridge to use up leftovers before they spoil. Plus, as she looks back over a month’s meals, she spies things that are timely to make again. They have three sons, ages 4, 6 and almost 9. “I basically shop for staples every week,” Michelle adds. She keeps black beans, rice, lentils and frozen veggies always in stock. Her husband Brian cooks breakfast for the boys and washes dishes. AND cleans the house.

Our grandsons love playing chef or maybe “fast food drive through” in our playhouse, recently dubbed “The Food House.”

Tanya, our middle daughter, and her husband have two boys, ages 9 and 6. She writes: “We have a three-week rotation of meals. I keep a notebook with shopping lists for a running calendar of dinner entrees. Sometimes I plan two weeks out (but only buy groceries for the immediate week). All I put in the notebook is the main course: Sun Aug 28 Lasagna; Mon Aug 29 Grilled Chicken; Tues Aug 30 Sloppy Joes, and so on. The notebook helps me make sure I buy necessary ingredients to make entrees, for things I don’t usually keep on hand. It also reminds me of how many/types of proteins to buy (ground beef, usually two packages, chicken tenders, cottage cheese, etc.). I can also look back and see, oh we haven’t had chili for three weeks, we’ll have that again this week. We generally grill something twice a week in the summer. We buy takeout pizza every other Friday night.”

This birthday boy asked for his favorite special meal, Chicken Pot Pie and we were lucky enough to enjoy it with him recently! He began loving it when he was just two.

She points out “a big factor in meal planning is thinking through the family schedule for the week. Since Jon gets home earlier, he can now cook about 30 percent of our repertoire and make a few entire meals, plus get started cutting chicken up or put things in the oven if it’s something I made early morning (meatloaf, chicken that has been marinating, etc.). If we have baseball, Scouts, or other activities in the evening and I have to commute, I schedule a meal that Jon can make all by himself or a frozen lasagna I made previously. More extensive/laborious meals I usually plan for Saturdays or Sundays when I have time for things like lasagna, fajitas, stuffed peppers. I generally keep a stock of side dishes like rice, pasta, frozen vegetables which I don’t plan in advance.”

Youngest daughter Doreen says she and her husband Ahmed have tried the meal app, “Eat This Much” which was originally designed for very strict portions and diet requirements. “It’s a good tool for meal planning—including shopping lists, but if you’re not good about sticking to it (by eating out or eating other things in your pantry because you’re ‘not in the mood’ for that food) then you end up with more groceries than you need. So I’ve utilized it more for meal ideas for the week and pick and choose which ones I do.” She also checks what’s on sale in weekly circulars. “Sometimes there are whole meals on sale: you buy a pound of ground beef, and get the taco shells, taco mix, lettuce, tomato and cheese for like a dollar each.” She also has a list of entrees she makes and checks occasionally for things they haven’t had in a while.

She adds, “I also enter oddball stuff on my phone that I don’t buy every week but don’t want to forget like toilet paper, salt, toothpaste, etc.” Michelle also uses a free app “Out of Milk” and appreciates that it saves what she’s put on the list in the past, “so sometimes I can just run through the old items and check them off as ‘yes, I need that.’”

Great easy standby meal: spaghetti at Doreen’s house after a recent move.

I am happy that my daughters manage as much cooking as they do, and all working full time—and they mostly figured out their own preferred routines—with not much help from Mom. I do love it when they call with a cooking question—and I’m reminded of the busy busy lives they lead.

I’m giving away FREE copies (as long as they last) of my 2010 cookbook Whatever Happened to Dinner: Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime. Just pay shipping of $3.00. Send cash or check and your request to: Another Way, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834. Or email me at

  1. You have set a high bar for your daughters, and they are all excelling, perhaps even going beyond with food apps. Yes?

    It looks like they picked husbands that are interested in cooking too, and one helps clean house. That one has hit the jackpot. Ha!

    Your photos are extraordinary this week. I liked especially the fast food drive through. Those boys won’t starve when they’re on their own. I predict you might have a chef or two in the mix.

    One line especially resonated: I too try to “dig back in the fridge to use up leftovers before they spoil.” (Waste not, want not!) 😀

  2. Oh, almost forgot. Please reserve a copy of your cookbook for me. I believe you have my mailing address. I’ll try to get a check in the mail this week. Thanks!

    • Thanks for your two comments! Yes, I’ll get your cookbook to you. I should have said the recipes in it were supplied by a number of my work colleagues back in 2010. It is a great collection due to their entries!

      And I should have given more credit to all three husbands who do their share of the cleaning and chores. I was delighted with what each daughter came up with to help me with this particular column/blog post. Yeah, proud (and happy) mama/MIL.

  3. To whom do I make the check for shipping payable?

  4. singinglady37 permalink

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