Thursday, May 5, 2011

What's In A Meal?

In general, I try to plan out menus in advance, because I think it saves both time and money later on.  But sometimes I get stymied when it comes to figuring out meals.  I finally took a little bit of time and decided what I think constitutes an acceptable meals for my family.  In general, here's how it plays out for us:

Our meals will always include:
  • A protein
  • A starch
  • A vegetable or fruit
These can be separate dishes (steak, potatoes, salad) or a combined dish (vegetable-beef soup) or something in between (spaghetti with meat sauce, green beans) 

Our meals will usually include:
  • A second vegetable or fruit
Again, either as a stand-alone or combined into another dish

Our meals will often include:
  • A bread of some sort, in addition to the other starch listed above
This would be bread and butter, dinner rolls, cornbread, a sweet or savory quick bread, biscuits, etc.

Our meals will sometimes include:
  • A third vegetable or fruit
  • A dessert or other sweet
  • Relishes/add-ons
This will usually depend on what needs to be used up from the fridge, what we have an abundance of from the garden, how hungry we are, etc.  The dessert might also be the third fruit, such as berries or peaches.  Relishes, to me, are things like pickles of any kind, olives, cottage cheese, deviled eggs, etc.

Our meals will rarely include:
  • An appetizer
Although appetizers appeal to me, I rarely make them at home.  I'm more likely to wait until a holiday or birthday and then serve an array of several appetizers instead of a meal.

So, do you plan meals, and if so, do you have a formula like this to guide you?  Or am I over-analyzing this? 

I remember growing up, we usually had meals made up of a protein, a starch (almost always potatoes), a couple of veggie sides, and some relishes.  We always had bread, but rarely had dessert.  Sweets and fruits were usually eaten as snacks instead of a way to end a meal.  I wonder if my mom put a lot of thought into our meals or if it just came naturally to her.  Our meals were very consistent, and she shopped from a list, but I don't remember ever seeing her sit down to plan our meals.


A.Marie said...

The meals I plan are alot like yours. I like to have a protein, starch, and veggie, and I almost always include fruit. Usually cut up apples, because my hubby and son love them.

I don't always have a bread or dessert, even though my men would really love that. They adore sweets! My daughter would love it if I would skip the veggies, but I tell her, "too bad!" ;)

I shop from a list and try to plan at least 2 big meals a week, and then the rest of the week, I create meals from what is left over. We usually have pizza one night a week (for teen son) and then I also like to have a soup meal.

Melynda said...

Great organization and outline, I can only hope to be this ahead of the game, one day.

Dmarie said...

I remember crying as a child with half a Brussels sprout in my mouth...did NOT want to eat that thing! now I'll eat anything. more often than not some form of animal/veggie/dairy protein ends up on our plates along with at least two veggies. sometimes bread. more often fruit's for snacks. for the most part, dessert after every meal, except for now when I'm trying out "slow carb" meals, ala "4-Hour Body" book, with cheat days on Saturdays!

SonyaAnn said...

Our dinners usually follow that same math equation. It does seem to be getting a bit hard to come up with meals tho. Maybe we are just in need of some fresh veggies to revive dinner.

McVal said...

I wish I could be as planned and as prepared as your meal plan! If we have meat in the house, SUPER! I'll start with that and build around it...

slugmama said...

I strive for protein, veg, carb ususally or a dish with one or more of those parts in it. I will often serve 2 vegs a-just to get a greater ratio of veg into the family and b-because sometimes I serve a veg they don't like so I like to have another one they will eat.
I try to have at least 1 meat-free meal per week.
The family would be happy with just protein and carb and will happily never eat veg, so sometimes I sneak in additional veg in the protein or carb dish just to be
I try to limit our carbs and I often don't eat the carbs myself because I have a carb addiction. I'd rather be full on the protein than the carb for personal reasons. If the protein or veg. has a carb in it(a sauce, cheese, etc.)I'll just serve the protein and veg or two veg.
I don't make desserts except for a rare cake or brownie, usually for a special occasion. We do have ready to eat junk however like ice cream, chips, etc. if someone wants a dessert.

Sheila said...

Wow--I'm way off with my meal planning. I guess about half of our meals are just a meat and a big salad. The other half are a meat, starch and salad. Our salads have lots of different vegetables in them. I've been in a cooking slump lately though--they're lucky if I cook at all. Nothing tastes good and I'm not hungry for anything special so I don't care to cook--which is highly unusual for me.