Summer Meal Challenge

Summer Meal Challenge


When Josh and I moved into our new home in the summer of 2012 I was excited about the kitchen space – the granite countertops, fun backsplash, and stainless steel appliances. For those who know me, that’s a bit crazy since I’ve never been one to spend much time in the kitchen. Even though I appreciate our nice kitchen, I’m pretty intimidated for some weird reason. I think deep down that I’m not very confident and that I’m afraid my family won’t like my cooking. I realize that I need to get over this!

Prior to having kids I was busy working 9-10 hour days at the hospital and I didn’t put a lot of effort into planning meals. Trust me, I am a huge fan of takeout, especially from our favorite restaurants! While there are times that I wish I could order takeout every night, I realize that this is not realistic, nor is it good for my family. Whether I like it or not, I can no longer use the “I’m too busy at work” excuse!

Honestly, I naively thought that once I became a mom things would suddenly change and that I’d be an awesome meal planner. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for reality to set in. Now that I’m a stay-at-home mom I find that I still struggle with knowing what to make for dinner. I have a couple go-to recipes, but I’m getting bored with them and I’m sure Josh is ready to have some more variety. I have two little ones who are both under the age of 2 ½, so I’m unable to spend unlimited hours in the kitchen. However, I’m not going to let that be an excuse. I realize that meal planning is a weakness of mine and I’m ready to do something about it!

This summer I’ve decided to challenge myself to making two or three new recipes each week. My goal is to find new meal ideas for young families that are both nutritious and quick. I can’t do this alone and I would so appreciate your help with the following:

  • Do you have favorite recipes, apps, or websites that you use for your meal planning?
  • How do you balance your meal prep time in the kitchen with young children who frequently require your attention?
  • Do you have any good tips for grocery shopping for a young family of four?


Any recommendations are much appreciated, as I really want to expand my family’s dinner menu options.

As far as food allergies go, I have an allergy to shellfish that was discovered at a young age. I’ve avoided shellfish my entire life until this past May when I inadvertently ate a crab wonton while on vacation. I’ll just say that the shellfish allergy was correctly diagnosed – I’ll spare you the details! At this time this is the only known food allergy in our family.

I want to take things a step further and at the end of the summer I plan to review the recipes I’ve tried. Hopefully I will be able to share tips or tricks that I’ve learned that will help make family mealtime a great experience for all. Who knows, maybe you will even want to join me in this fun summer challenge!

  • Leah Swaim
    Posted at 18:23h, 26 July Reply

    I totally get it! I was the same way when I worked full time… and overly ambitious when I quit to be a full-time mom. A few of my meal-prep hacks include:
    – Googling a recipe based on what I have available, then adding or substituting ingredients based on what we like. I try to keep a number of canned goods available so I can grab it for any meal — beans, chicken stock, corn, tomatoes, etc.
    – Relying on a crockpot for many meals, even if it’s just to cook chicken breasts and then pair with something else. This allows me to prep when I have the time (e.g. naptime!) and doesn’t require an hour of intense cooking when kids get super cranky at 5 pm 🙂 There is a recipe online for almost any dish to be made in a slow-cooker. Also, I use crockpot liners every time — SOOO much easier to clean up afterward!
    – Grill on a George Foreman for quick meats– healthy, quick, and easy prep and clean-up.
    – Pick up packaged salads like Taylors’ Farms kits from the grocery store. They’re not the cheapest option, but they do mean that we eat more salads because there is even less work involved when the family is hungry!
    – We tend to do a lot of frozen veggies as sides. Many of them are flash-frozen so they retain their nutrients, and then a quick heat in the microwave or stovetop and I don’t have to spend time washing and chopping, etc. Green Giant makes a lot of delicious veggies like green beans with almonds, or cubed squash that I then heat up with a bit of butter and seasonings, etc.
    – And definitely not as healthy, but we always have a taco kit (with avocados!) or frozen pizza ready to go on nights when we get home later or just don’t have time for anything else! 🙂 Then generally add a fruit or veggie.
    – I’ve also gotten some amazing ideas for meals from girlfriends when they brought over food when babies were born. Several of my favorites are chicken enchilada and tortilla soup and baked ziti made with cottage cheese.. They are fairly easy to make, and freeze well for leftovers in weeks (okay, sometimes months!) to come.

    Excited to read about more ideas — I’m always looking for inspiration!

    • Stacy Lucas
      Posted at 22:16h, 26 July Reply

      Wow! Thank you so much for your tips! They are great and I will be using every single one of them! I’m a fan of the crock pot and hope to utilize it even more! Great stuff!

  • Katie Schellhammer
    Posted at 01:53h, 02 August Reply

    I love this post and am finally getting around to responding. I think all of us moms can relate. It’s hard to feel motivated to break out of the “usuals” when we have a to do list that is a mile long and little people grabbing at our ankles while we’re prepping. Here are some things that have been sweet for me… it’s a combo of money saving and time saving.

    -The freezer. Figure out the things I can freeze to have on hand when I need a small amount of something, when I just plain forget, or when I’m in a pinch and need to throw an unplanned meal together. Here are some of my favorites: I peel ginger and freeze it, then grate with a “plane” I think it’s called. Green onions and basil – I chop and freeze these (obviously separate). Lemon juice. Chicken broth (see below)
    -Whole chicken. I crockpot a whole chicken on low overnight or all day depending on what’s convenient. Just peel and half an onion, then throw the whole chicken over it. After it’s done cooking, it pretty much falls apart. So I go through the whole chicken, tossing the unwanted items back in the crock, and keeping the meat. Then I stew chicken broth (really, it’s bone broth) by adding a carrot, celery stalk, parsley, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp thyme and black pepper, 3 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar (this is essential), sometimes I add garlic or bay leaves as well, then fill with water and cook in on low for at least 36 hours These ingredients… make it anyway even if you’re missing something. You’ll end up with oodles of chicken broth (I get about 10 cups). I store it in mason jars, but you could use saved glass jars from jelly or salsa or whatever else if you’re going for frugal. I also get enough chicken for 2 recipes, sometimes 3 throughout the week. I also make 1 soup recipe every week.
    -Wanting to start cooking more healthy? is a gateway drug. She’ll guide you into what is actually healthy versus what culture and the food companies are telling us, which are vastly different. We’ve made TONS of her recipes, and own her cookbook. I have liked almost everything. It’s a joke in our house that I can’t follow a recipe because I love adapting to my tastes of finding better ways to prepare food. I only vary from a few of her recipes, which I consider a massive compliment to the site.
    -I find that lunch is my biggest pitfall of just struggling not to serve the same boring things on repeat. I’ve found that has some great creative recipes. I never follow her recipes to the T as I don’t always find them to follow the way we eat or aren’t healthy enough, so I do adapt a lot. But the core ideas are often really fun and easy to change to your style/preference.
    -Here are a few of our tried and true recipes, I have lots on paper…. so let me know if you want more I can snap some photos and send them over:

    I can’t wait to hear about your journey!! Good luck.

    • Stacy Lucas
      Posted at 03:02h, 03 August Reply

      Thank you so much for all of the information, Katie! I can’t wait to check out your tips! I need all the help I can get!

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