It's the end of another month and I'm getting ready to start my next month's meal planning and grocery list building. If you read here regularly, you'll know that I do monthly meal plans and we do one big grocery trip a month and supplement produce (and lots of gallons of milk!) throughout as needed.
I've been planning my meals monthly for about three-ish years now and it suits my sanity levels come dinnertime. My method is to plan five meals during the weeknights and mark them in my planner on those particular days. Weekends are left to leftovers, grandparents house visits, eating out/ordering in, or something we are craving (like buffalo mac&cheese this past weekend!)
Now, if we arrive at the actual day and I glance at my planner and for whatever reason have an aversion to whatever it is I had planned weeks ago, I skim the rest of the week's plans and swap the days' dinners. And sometimes if we're having a particularly difficult day (kid tantrums, surprise challenges, etc) then I will slip in one of our favorite kid-pleaser meals because the one thing this momma can't handle on top of an already difficult day - are kids that whine about dinner.
So if you are in the middle of a particularly challenging kid day - or you just need to add some kid-pleasing meals to your rotation - here are six of our go-to favorites.
As plain and boring as possible. We literally make the noodles (our kids prefer 'spaghetti' noodles. They think other kinds aren't as good - I personally like Linguine noodles best, but what the heck do I know, right?!) and we heat up spaghetti sauce (our favorite is Meat flavored Aldi sauce). All you parents out there know too just how much sauce gets added to each kid's pile of noodles, amirite!? Hahhah, parenthood is full of tiny little details you get to learn and must.live.by.or.else. The kids add Parmesan cheese on top of their own then for the final touch. We don't add any ground beef, or meatballs, or chicken. nothing - the more plain and boring, the more widely pleased everyone is. It's crazy.
They also are happy to have garlic bread or jelly bread (weird Studer tradition) to dip.
Grown up version: I sometimes top my spaghetti with steamed veggies and add a salad on the side.
2. Chicken, veggie, stuffing casserole
I found this recipe a million and a half years ago in a Real Simple magazine advertisement and I tore the page out and have kept it in a big white binder I have in our cupboard. I almost have the recipe memorized by heart but I like to glance at it just to make sure I have the temp/time right. This is a pinterest copy of the same recipe that I have on my little torn out magazine ad - it's from All Recipes
I 'cheat' a little and boil the chicken (slow cooker) first all day and then shred it before adding it to the casserole. We use greek yogurt instead of sour cream too just because we always have greek yogurt in the house and rarely do I remember to buy sour cream. The kids eat several bowls of this and we almost never have leftovers.
3. 3B porkchops
This one is befuddling, but our kids love breaded, baked, boneless pork chops (aka 3B). I usually can enlist a kid to help in the breading too which adds a little fun to the process.
We dip the porkchops in egg and then drop them in a plastic ziploc with breadcrumbs and a dry dressing packet (either Ranch or Italian depending on what we have on hand). Then we put them on parchment paper and bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes (all approx and super unchef-like of me).
We switch up the sides - sometimes rice, sometimes noodles. And we include a veggie (our kids love corn, broccoli, and salad). They like to dip their porkchops in ketchup because they are cave people.
4. Korean beef
Super big win the day I discovered this pin! So very easy and so delicious. We love Asian-inspired food in most forms, so this one is always a big hit. We eat it over white rice and I like to add broccoli on the side (or mixed right in!) Here is the recipe using ground beef on pinterest and it comes from Food.com
Grown up version: Brandon and I put Red Pepper flakes and Green Onions on top.
Our kids love Taco Tuesday (every single week, hah). We keep it fun and fresh by switching up between ground beef and chicken tacos (our kids prefer soft shells). We've also done taco pasta (just putting the taco meat over cooked pasta (elbows and bowties work best). The kids like their tacos with Ranch dressing and cheddar cheese. If they're feeling wild, they'll add in some lettuce and corn.
Grown up version: lots of additions: sour cream/greek yogurt, salsa, jalapenos, lettuce, rice, beans. Switching it up to a taco salad instead of soft shells, etc.
6. Chicken & Gravy over mashed potatoes
This is my 'pick'em up' meal if someone had a big or hard day. I have made this meal for the first day of school for the past two years...and it gets made if someone needs a little comforting, loving boost...or just needs reminded that their momma loves them and this is home and we are family. I think I'm giving too much credit to this meal, but it makes my children happy and makes me feel like I'm giving them a childhood memory of a hug in the form of food.
Toss frozen chicken in the slow cooker with two packets of chicken gravy, some water, and a can of cream of chicken soup. Cook all day, shred the chicken and return it to the slow cooker. Pour chicken/gravy over top of mashed potatoes and serve with sweet corn. Here's our favorite version on pinterest from the Magical Slow Cooker blog.
Grown up version/left overs: B and I love these as open-faced chicken & gravy sandwiches too!
Does your family have some kid-pleasing meals that always seem to do the trick when you just can't hear any dinnertime whining? Please share - mommas & daddies need to unite in the name of enjoyable mealtimes! xxoxo