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I recently told a friend that we eat mostly the same dinners each week and it was almost like I could hear a record scratch. I knew what was happening in her head because she lives in the same social media world as me and has little kids: What about variety? What about exposures to new foods??

List of foods that child wrote in crayon.

A few years ago, when I started using theme nights to plan dinners—which is where you have categories like “pasta night”, “pizza night” etc to help narrow your decisions so you’re never starting from scratch—I learned the value in food routines. I actually started doing this because it was how our then daycare planned the kids lunch menu. They had a 6 week plan where staples rotated in an out, which I assumed allowed the kids to have familiar foods in the mix and also gave them a chance to see foods a few times and maybe work up the courage to eventually try them. And it made it easier for the cook because it used the same staple foods.

For me, I only plan one week at a time and I use the word “planning” loosely. But we similarly rely on a set of core family meals because the kids find this comforting and I find it easier to execute. Our current go-to dinners include:

  • Pasta with pesto or butter and Parmesan
  • Quesadillas with black beans and cheese or taco salads with black beans and cheese or tacos with black beans and cheese (all basically the same ingredients!)
  • Cheeseburgers and roasted potatoes or fries
  • Pizza, either homemade or takeout
  • In the colder months, we had soup once a week. We often now have a big Caesar Salad or snack plate with hummus, pita chips, chicken, and whatever veggies we have in the house.

Then, I add in other dishes I have to make for work or that I feel like making. (Yesterday we had the Rice Noodle Salad from my new book Dinnertime SOS and it was delish!) And I use whichever veggie and fruit sides we have on hand. And the actual ingredients (other than the black beans and cheddar cheese, which my girls insist on) may change. So the pasta shape changes, the kind of tortilla may change, the type of potatoes may change. And we may get takeout once a week. So those places are where the variety and exposure comes in naturally, without my having to work down a chart.

All of this is to say that it’s okay if you similarly rely on some of the same meals each week to feed your family, too. It’s okay to embrace methods that make feeding your family and yourself easier. Always.

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