Good question. Sometimes I wonder this myself. I definitely try to always have a plan of what I’m going to do for the week ahead (and sometimes further out that than) but sometimes I don’t do the plan or sometimes I do – but then things don’t work out as planned.
What I would like to do it have a monthly meal plan. At the moment I work to a rough weekly plan so I know more or less what we are going to eat for the week and what Dom will have in his lunch box (this is mostly left overs from our dinner the night before). So the plan is to meal plan for a month covering breakfasts, lunches and dinners and two snacks a day for Dom. (I’m not a fan of the morning tea and afternoon teas each day but it’s a fact of life if your child is in pre-school or school that they’ll be having these.)
At the moment I’ve bought in bulk a couple of times for our meat (1/4 pig and 1/2 lamb) from organic free range farms. I know everyone will not be able to do that but for us it worked out well as if you buy in bulk you can get the meat for comparable price to supermarket.
I did invest in a big extra freezer for our garage and that has been totally essential part making eating real food much easier.
I set aside one day a week (after my main weekly shop) where I batch cook up portions of meat for freezing into lunch portions (lamb, chicken, pork etc). I also make up a couple of mince meat dishes (usually pork and lamb mince) and freeze into portions. I also bake grain-free muffins and/or loaves and slice these up for the freezer as well.
My aim is to buy seasonal, fresh, New Zealand grown produce. This has been going moderately well but to be honest sometimes I’m too tired and just grab what I can. Plus all our bananas and coconut products come in from overseas. I have stopped buying grapes on a regular buy based on them being an import (generally) and the high fructose content. (Not that they’re not fine for a sometimes fruit but Dom was having them everyday.)
I sit down and eat almost every dinner with Dom at the dining table. For the breakfast I either sit with him or he has his breakfast while speaking with my Mum in the UK via Skype. When it’s just me and Dom we talk about the day we’re about to have or what we’ve done that day. I know sometimes I don’t sit down with Dom in the evening and spend the time cleaning up the kitchen. Then it all seems OK but all those times I do sit down I am reminded immediately how much more forthcoming Dom will be and how much more connected we are. He’s so funny when he says to me “How was your day Mum? What did you do?”
Dom’s very helpful when it comes to putting all the groceries away and has learnt most of the names of the fruits and vegetables. I haven’t taken him to do the actual shopping as much as I might have so am aiming to get him more involved in that. (Such as printing him a pictorial shopping list with different fruits and veggies and getting him to find them.)
Dom’s spent quite a bit of time on a working farm when we were living in the UK but I’ve been a bit slack since then. We do have some friends on a small lifestyle block with chickens so that is at least something but really intend to put more effort into this area as I believe it’s so important to maintain the connection for children to understand where the food they eat comes from and the whole “cycle of life”.
One thing we have do on the weekends is watch some documentary (or cartoon) shows that educate children about the whole food production process and farming and so on. Of course Dom is always keen to watch anything on the iPad so you have to be careful he doesn’t just end up in watching another Thomas Tank Engine show! But he’s certainly very interested in learning about the origins of food and animals and I always learn something too!
What about actually getting Dom to EAT the food? Does he eat it? Well the short answer is yes he does. It’s just every so often he will say that he doesn’t like something “It’s not my favourite Mum” or “Mum! I don’t think this is going to be good! (The latter generally said when I have mixed up some concoction that even to my eyes isn’t that great – like the time I blended up some mince with liver and it went an unfortunate “poo” colour that Dom brought to my attention right away.) But even when he says things like this – 99% of the time if I do choo choo trains or aeroplanes or something else then he’ll eat it no problem. Sometime it’s as simple as making up a funny name for whatever it is. Something that looks weird and inedible (or he’s simply decided he didn’t like) can become instantly desirable when called “Dinosaur Eggs” or “Monster Mash” or the like.
One thing that I do (and not saying this works for everyone but it seems to be working for us): We have similar meal times and a very stable routine for wake ups and bed times. We don’t do deserts unless it’s a special occasion (birthday or special visitors) and Dom doesn’t get anything after dinner (no fruit, no anything) except water. Also if he says he doesn’t want to eat his dinner (for whatever reason) then he doesn’t get anything later (unless its one of my “mistakes” where even I can see a valid reason – like the time I added chilli instead of cinnamon to a breakfast dish… . I can count on my hands how often this has happened at this stage so most times he’s eating his dinner (and I’m not making major mess ups!). The reason he generally won’t have wanted to eat is where he’s starting to get unwell or where he’s eaten a lot in day or had a late afternoon tea for some reason.)