Tag Archives: meal planning

Picnic Parents

It’s a phrase my wife coined a few months back to describe how we approach dining around the crazy schedule that is life with a middle and high school students.  You see, our lives revolve around evening wrestling, kickboxing, karate, orchestra, band, youth group….you get the point.  Life runs as a million mile an hour and unless we have a plan, we are running through a drive through.  I cannot tell you how many times I have eaten Subway or Chipotle in the stands of some event.  Not that there is anything wrong with it but there is a better way.

There is a better way!!

Joy and I finally figured out during this year’s football season that we do not have to buy from the concession stand.  And get this, the food we were allowed to bring in……did not have to come from a fast service, franchised restaurant.  We finally figured out that we could make game night, date night and bring our own picnic.  Ok, I may be stretching to get credit for ‘date night’ on these evenings but we definitely eat better than most.

We bring our own food and are usually the envy of all around

The menus for the various events varies greatly from day to day but there are a few things that are consistent that make the ‘picnic’ a whole lot easier to pull off.

  • You are packing a meal – not packing for an Everest Expedition:

Ok, I may just be preaching to myself here but picnic dinners do not need to be 7 course meals.  Think all-in-ones.  Soups, stews, salads, tacos, etc.  The less your guests have to deal with in regards to utensils and plate-ware, the better.  There is a time and place for putting together a ton of options, this is not it.  (Andrew:  read that again, THIS IS NOT IT)

  • Invest in a soft sided cooler:

I cannot recommend a cooler that is soft-sided and can be carried like a duffel bag enough.  A rolling cooler is too big and bulky and the lunch box sizes are too small to feed the family (unless you are packing one for each member of the family).  I picked mine up as a give away from a golf tournament years ago but we have definitely put it to good use.  Just as importantly, it makes you focus on only what will actually fit in the cooler (Andrew – read the above point again).

  • Plan to eat cold food:

In my work life I do presentations for a living, often over lunch.  What I have learned is that I need to order something that will taste good cold.  Why?  Because by the time I get to eat, it is going to be stone cold anyways.  Same holds true for the picnic parent event.  For example, most wrestling matches start at 5:00.  We will typically not eat until 6:30ish.  Unless it is something in a Thermos, it is going to be cold.

  • Invest in portioned Tupperware and Thermoses:

We use these all the time but especially as picnic parents.  Everything is portioned out at home so when someone is ready to eat, we just pull out their Tupperware/Thermos.  No plates, no bowls, no serving a portion of this or that.  Think frozen dinner only healthy and tasty.  It also allows you to customize each meal to the particular diner.  For example, my wife primarily eats vegetarian.  My youngest son would live as a carnivore if we let him.  I can pack two different meals easily and everyone is happy.

  • Cut up everything in advance:

Yes, I do realize you are not 3 and yes, I do think you can cut your own chicken but have you ever seen someone try and balance a plate on their lap while trying to cut up food?  Make it easier on everyone and just cut it up in advance.

So there you go, the secrets to making picnic parenting work.  I look forward to seeing you at the next game and seeing what you brought to enjoy on your ‘picnic’.

Failing to plan is planning to Fail

Sometimes I feel like all I do is plan to be on the road.  What clothes are clean?  What toiletries do I need to replace?  What’s the weather going to be like at the destination?  These are all things that readily run through my crazy road warrior head but the planning is not just limited to what I have to deal with, I also pay attention to what is going to happen back on the home front.

I am the one in the family who does the grocery shopping and meal planning.  It has become a bit of a Sunday tradition/therapy for me.  Sit in the morning with the coupons, see how much I can save while shopping and then spend the afternoon cooking one good meal to start the week as well as staples that can be thrown in the microwave throughout the week.

Where I have fallen short is not having a plan that is flexible and varied

Not to say the least about communicating that plan to my beautiful wife so that she might be able to execute on said plan.  I leave to eat restaurant meals throughout the week and leave the family at home with all kinds of ‘options’ but nothing solidified.  So in the bustle of wrestling practices, weightlifting, orchestra rehearsal, kickboxing and karate, the family is stuck grabbing whatever is ready in the fridge/pantry or making a Shakeology before racing out the door.  It is not the ideal and quite frankly, it is my failure.

You see, meal planning is not an issue for me.  I have no problem coming up with a plan for the week.  I also have no problem communicating it, where I lack is including creativity/variety in the plan.  I would eat the same thing all week without issue.  I enjoy structure and familiarity.  My family would appreciate eating something besides grilled chicken, brown rice and broccoli though.  I needed a solution that met all of our needs.

So I themed each day of the week

This gives me the structure I work best within but challenges me to vary the menu from week to week.  So here you go, here is my weekly ‘meal plan’:

Meatless Monday – Pretty simple to explain and especially appreciated in a house where one of us mostly eats vegetarian.

Taco Tuesday – Food delivered via foldable, edible container.  Could be Fish Tacos, could be Asian Lettuce Wraps.

Wet Wednesday – Soup!!

Throw it out Thursday – This day is all about the leftovers.  We are terrible about eating them unless we set a day aside to make sure we do.

Fishy Friday – Something from the sea (to be transparent, we eat fish at least 2-3 times a week already)

Sizzling Saturday – My day to fire up the grill

Sumptuous Sunday – I usually have more time to really try something different and time consuming.   This is normally the day I try and emulate something I have had on the road as well as cook for the rest of the week.

Each day is supremely flexible in the fact that we can use what is on sale, try new recipes, make it ahead and take it with us (coming soon on this ‘Picnic Parents’), make extra for lunch the following days, accommodate both vegetarian and meat lovers……you get the point.

Most importantly, it sets everyone up for success!!

The only step I have added to the normal routine is to be sure that the meal plan (including recipes) is printed out for the week.  Cut and paste from the websites/Pinterest boards that are relevant for the week…..I may even try putting together a shared board for my wife and I for the week……huh, just thought of that one.  Thanks!!

So remember, while you are about to race out for the week, your family is hunkering down awaiting your return.  Do everything you can to make their week as successful as yours!

See you on the road!!