authentic stories from the frontlines of grass-fed
month of meat A month of meat – Introducing our four-part series on planning and cooking a ButcherBox for your family

How Meal Planning and ButcherBox Collided in My Kitchen

Hello from the frontlines of family dinner!

As a parent to two school-aged boys, I know from experience that getting healthy meals on the table during the weekday rush can feel like an insurmountable feat. As any working parent will tell you, between work, school, after-school activities, figuring out what to cook and making sure you have what you need, including the energy to do it — well, yeah. It’s a lot.

I embraced meal planning years ago in an attempt to tame some of that chaos. The practice of planning our weekly dinners has stuck with me because I’ve found the benefits go beyond simply wrestling one moving part into place (although this is huge). From reducing spending and waste to intentionally carving out time to get creative in the kitchen, meal planning is a practical way to keep my cooking spark alive.

And it doesn’t need to be a big project, unless you want it to be. Planning out meals can be as simple as jotting down a loose list of ideas on the back of an envelope — or as immersive as diving in to a couple of favorite cookbooks and blocking out some time on Sunday for prep and experimentation.

Here’s my process, which usually happens on Saturdays:

First: Check the family calendar. If my spouse is traveling or working late, I keep those nights super-simple.

Next: Ask my kiddos what they want to see on the menu. I can’t always deliver on these requests (no cake for dinner, sorry guys), but making a point of asking helps get kids engaged in the process.

Then: Sweep the freezer, fridge, and pantry. What’s in the fridge that needs to get used up? Any frozen treasures I can thaw for easy nights? And what about pantry items that are squatting on precious real estate? Add those to the plan.

Finally: Sort through everything and plan the dinners. Make prep and grocery lists, block the time in my calendar, and head to the store. 

This month I’m sharing how I used one ButcherBox throughout the course of three weeks of mapping and making family dinners. I hope it will spark some ideas for your family as it did for us!

You can check out the other installments, Braised Beef, Taco Tuesday, and How To Switch Gears – A Month of Meat, Week One and Embracing the Freezer, Whole Spices, and Doubling Recipes — A Month of Meat Week Two here: Week One / Week Two

Leigh Belanger is a cookbook author, teacher, and writer/editor. Her most recent cookbook, called My Kitchen Chalkboard, about streamlining dinner for busy families without sacrificing interesting food and cooking, was released in May 2018. Top photo by Tara Morris.