Coco's weekly meal plan: Kid tested

When I returned to work a year ago I quickly realized that "creating" dinner the way I used to was unsustainable. My kids were tired, I was tired, homework and showers needed to happen, evening activities were calling. I couldn't just dash out for a few ingredients. It was too much. That's when I started to research meal plans and had a "come-to-Jesus" moment with myself about overdoing simple weekday meals to my detriment.

It wasn't a surprise that I was called to reckon my love for interesting, spontaneous cooking with fresh market ingredients, and my need to be an effective family manager and plan in advance. I had had years of training as a cook. First, at various catering companies in the Hamptons, where Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa was the standard, then later at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, in Cambridge, Massachusetts where the repertoire was a bit more corporate. I also had plenty of "free" time (although it never felt that way at the time, I see it now).

I wouldn't be telling you the whole truth if I told you that adapting and sticking with a meal plan was simple for me and my family. We're seriously unconventional in many ways and the meal plan felt like another suburbanization of my life. I didn't want to let go of my first love! But through trial and error, I was able to put together a routine in the family kitchen that continues to support us. It feels balanced, healthy and simple, with enough room for accommodation for independent likes and dislikes to satisfy most of us, most of the time. Here's my boiled-down version:

Monday - Hot Potato night
Hot locally grown baked potatoes
Toppings (some of the favorites include shredded cheese, unsalted butter, scallions, chili, green veggies, salt & pepper, sour cream, etc.)
Something fresh like salad or a veggie plate
Dessert is optional (usually fruit)

Tuesday - "Taco" night
Hot jasmine or brown rice
Browned turkey breast seasoned w/ Taco spices
Served in a bowl, burrito or taco
Toppings: lettuce, avocado or guacamole, salsa
Big salad or fresh fruit plate
Dessert is optional

Wednesday - Pasta night!
Hot pasta - fresh or dry
Bottled or homemade sauce, or garlic/butter/oil
Garlic bread (homemade or store bought)
Salad with a cheesy dressing
Dessert is optional

Thursday - Take a break!
Take-out night
Budget healthy take-out
(This is the night that is the least nutritious, BTW)
Dessert is optional

Friday - Turn up the spice for the weekend!
Hot roasted Bell & Evans chicken or fish seasoned w/ curry or other spices
Cooked veggie medley
Something for dessert!
Eat in the dining room. Light a candle or two!

Weekends are more freestyle and usually include lunch:
Inventive and spontaneous (with or w/out the kids)
Eat in the dining room

Sunday - Whiffle ball night
SIMPLE Picnic or pizza for whiffle ball in the park
(This will change soon, when the season is over)

At each meal, the kids have a choice of:
2% milk, water, cider, sparkling
Adults might have:
sparkling, wine, beer, water

Kefir drinks or yogurt
Graham crackers in milk, eaten with a spoon
Chocolate pudding from KoziShack
A homemade dessert


  1. Call it narcissism, but I feel as if you have written this post just for me. I have struggled with dinners during the week for quite some time. You had suggested this plan to me months ago, which I resisted because I felt it left no room for creativity or spontaneity. What I have realized is that I can have those things in other areas of my life. 5:30pm on a weekday night, when we are all a little tired and a little grumpy and still have things to do is not the place for creativity. More thanks to Tim than me, we have a similar plan in place and it works like a charm. It also makes grocery shopping much easier. We talk together and a plan for the week, decide what to eat and go from there. It frees me up to think about other important things in my life. We eat well, we eat together and we eat healthily. We have a wall painted with chalkboard paint in our kitchen. As you had predicted, the kids look forward to seeing what is on the board each week.


  2. coco if you want the kid to hit homeruns, potatoes won't do the trick. feed that boy lean protein. nice blog, mealtime at my family was always an ordeal. well really everything with my family is an ordeal but esp. food. And the extended family, grandma, uncles and aunts, forget about it

  3. Nothing in my life has this much structure. It is nice to read about though.

    Monday night sounds like a fun meal; think I will try that at home and see how it flies.

  4. Stop by for dinner anytime. We still have plenty of drama; it's just the meals that are hot and on time.

  5. Who knew this was such a hot topic? I loved the post! You are so right - I used to have a breakfast schedule and frankly, I think my kids miss it. I may start up again...
    I wanted to add a few quick helathy ideas of my own:

    Pasta/Broccoli (my kids fave!) I start some salted boiling water on the stove. Then I cut one or two bunches of "asparation" (you can get it at TJ's - it's sweeter and more tender than broccoli)into 2" pieces. When the water comes to a boil, I give the aspiration a quick par boil to soften it up. Then I saute a couple of cloves of garlic in plenty of olive oil and add a little cayenne pepper. When the aspiration is slightly tender, I fish it out of the water and throw it into the oil and give it a quick saute. I then boil my pasta (I like TJ's papperdelle for this or spighetti)in the same water. When it is al dente, I add it to the frying pan with the garlic and aspiration and give it some low heat and toss for a few minutes. Serve with lots of peccorino or reggiano!

    When I'm in a REAL hurry we like TJ's frozen pork potstickers (lightly fried and steamed) with brown rice and a dipping sauce (soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, pinch of sugar). We also like TJ's vegitable fried rice with a couple of eggs scrampled in the pan first, then soy sauce and sesame oil added.

    I sound like I work for Trader Joes! But one more idea: I make a good Chinese Chicken Salad using TJ's Stir Fry Vegitables (from the fridge section - chinese cabbage, pea pods, broccoli), which I chop small. Then I add shreaded chicken (maybe leftover from a roasted chicken)and lightly salted cashew pieces. I toss it with TJ's Asian Soy Vinegarette (surprisingly good!). Almost everyone who has had it, loves it. It's lots of chewing and lots of fresh, raw vegitables.

  6. OMG I would die for some of that Chinese Chicken Salad. These tips are so great! Thank you for sharing everyone!

  7. Tuesday night we had Potato night. Another couple came over. It was great and easy. Potato toppings offered:
    butter (salted - of course)
    Sour Cream
    Onions (cooking in butter and foil with the potatoes)
    Kosher Salt and Pepper

    Great idea, we will do it again!