When planning food for the week, I always use my pantry and freezer as a starting point. I don’t like wasting food, or keeping it around indefinitely, or buying groceries when I have plenty to eat at home already.

This week, my kids’ dad is away. Normally we eat supper as a family several times a week despite being separated, so if the kids don’t like something I make, I know that at least one other person will eat it. When cooking only for the three of us, I do tend to cater more to their tastes to cut down on waste or leftovers.

I do work full-time outside of the home, so I like easy things that can be whipped up pretty quick, or that I can put in the slow or pressure cooker.

This is what I plan on making this week. If life gets in the way I do have frozen convenience foods (and leftovers) on hand.

  • Spaghetti: A favorite of the five-year-old. I have leftover beef roast in the freezer, so I plan on thawing and pureeing that to put in the sauce, along with some vegetables. I just use jarred sauce.
  • Mac & cheese: My three-year-old asks for it every single day. He would live on it, if he could. I’ll make it from scratch, though I do use the boxed stuff regularly for a quick lunch. I found some inspiration from this butternut squash mac & cheese recipe from Super Healthy Kids, so I will sneak some butternut squash into the cheese sauce. I have a bag of diced butternut squash in the freezer.
  • Bean burgers: I made a batch of these black bean burgers from Fueling a Fit Fam a couple of weeks ago but we never ended up eating them. I have buns and frozen fries on hand.
  • Quesadillas: Basic and plain cheese quesadillas. I will call them “grilled cheese” when I serve them. Whatever works, right?
  • Chicken: I don’t buy a ton of meat, but I did buy chicken drumsticks about a month ago when they were on sale for $1.99/lb. The kids like eating “chicken on the bone”. I have some pre-made coating on hand.
  • Chinese: Well, kind of. I make my own seitan using Vintage Vegan’s Instant Pot recipe. I will cut it up, bread it, fry it, serve it with sauce and call it “chicken balls”. I’ll make some veggie fried rice to go along with it.
  • Leftovers

My oldest is also in school, so I need to pack a lunch for him. He would probably eat “peanut” butter and jam (his school is nut- and peanut-free, so we use Wow Butter) every day but I like to provide a variety. For his “main dish” I have planned:

  • Ham & cheese wraps
  • Wow Butter & jam sandwich: I need to make some bread!
  • Pancakes: I have some pancakes frozen.
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Leftovers: If there are any supper leftovers that he says he will eat for lunch.

I think this is a pretty successful “pantry challenge” because I have everything on hand already! I need to buy some more cheese, and some basics that we use a lot of (milk, eggs, cucumber, etc). It won’t be a very expensive grocery bill this week.

I am also trying something different this week: the French four-course meal. This doesn’t mean preparing an elaborate feast every night, but rather serving your regular supper strategically. I actually witnessed something similar in my youngest’s daycare class when he was an infant. They were serving the babies steamed veggies, cheese and crackers for a snack. First, they gave them the veggies, then the cheese, then the crackers. They ate some of everything instead of just devouring the crackers.

I tried this method last night, and it went well. Mind you, I did not feel like cooking anything at all, so our second (main) course was hot dogs. What’s not to love? The other courses were raw veggies with dip, some cheese, and grapes. I will report back on how that goes at the end of the week.

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