domesticity,  Family Matters,  Life Lessons,  out out out of the house!,  spilling my guts,  the dogs

Picnic in the Park


Ever since I moved in with Payam I’ve been a stickler about making a meal plan. Every Sunday I faithfully write it on white board in the kitchen for everyone in the family to see. I’m kind of obsessive about and it has been becomes a source of stress for me. Mostly this is because I have kids who like wildly different foods and I’m pretty much guaranteed to have at least one person unhappy with me every day of the week. It’s like planned failure every damn day.

Why do I care so much? I don’t know. My parents served me fish sticks and I survived. But I guess I’ve got some lofty ideal in my mind and I’m having trouble letting that go.

If I ask the family for help with the weekly plan that doesn’t work either. Everyone in my house is a visual eater (including Payam) which means they can’t imagine what they want to eat unless they can see it.  They swing open the pantry door and hem and haw but nothing ever comes to them.  They stand in front of the refrigerator: same story with cold air wafting out.

A fully photographed menu would work awesome for them but I’m not up to creating that. I’m a graphic designer and photographer by trade but it would be epic amounts of work.  Can you imagine the weekly versions? TV commercials also work amazingly on them but I’m not up for eating pizza or fast food every night of the week either. Did I mention that one of the kids loves Olive Garden and the other does NOT. One of the kids loves In-N-Out and the other does NOT. You can guess which one is which.  Bottom line: I’m never going to make everyone happy.

Payam says to make what I want and call it a day. I’m trying to work on that. Some days I win at trying and I even get compliments on my cooking (which is like heaven opening and harp music playing). Most days I don’t win.

One of my weekly plans was a picnic dinner. It was actually kind of brilliant.  I’m often out walking the dogs around dinner time and I noticed that the weather is absolutely lovely around six. The heat of the day has finally dissipated and the light is really pretty and golden, shining through the trees and making long shadows. It’s really a great time of the day to be outside and not inside cooking.

And the dogs love it too!

I decided to cut my losses, get drive-thru fast-food that everyone likes and meet up at the park. We took the dogs, leashed them to a nearby barbecue and had a perfectly nice dinner with no one complaining. It was golden.

picnic-3Then we played soccer…picnic-4and took a walk around the lake…picnic-5

The kids were happy and didn’t spend the whole time arguing with each other…


Dogs were walked. People got exercise…picnic-7

Pokemon were hunted… it was just really, really nice. picnic-9

I’m not proud of the fast-food part.  It was delicious like only McDonald’s french fries and a two cheeseburger meal can be, but of course I wish I had packed gourmet sandwiches that were a bit more healthy or even picked up some take-out that was a little less cholesterol-filled but it was quick and easy and most importantly, family-pleasing.

I’ve since organized a healthy homemade sandwich picnic for the beach and that went a little less smoothly (sand, dogs, chaos…) but it was still was really nice. I’m working out the kinks. But if I can write anything about this experience it is my old mantra that I write about over and over here. I must make the effort. Getting outside for dinner before winter sets in is totally worth the pain in the neck of planning it.

Is there a support group for meal-planning? I’m thinking I should start one.


  • Melissa Carr

    Join the facebook group Foodie Love! Lots of people post pictures of what they’re making and ask for meal planning advice! I get great meal planning ideas from there.

  • s

    Organizing Junkie has a Menu Plan Monday that I get a lot of ideas from, and I think she has a FB site as well. A few things that I’ve learned in my many years of cooking for 3 kids (one SUPER picky, the others less so but just like yours have VERY different likes)…1) menu planning is supposed to HELP not become a point of stress so if it isn’t helping, something has to change, 2) menu planning should be treated as an outline – if you don’t make it that specific day, you table it for next week or shift a day or whatever – if you are too rigid, it’s really not working for you or your family, 3) hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches or pasta with store bought sauce count as MEALS – menu planning doesn’t mean EVERY MEAL has to be amazing and unique and from scratch, 4) no one will like every meal, but you SHOULD be able to provide something everyone likes so if the main is something one hates, make sure there is a side they like – they won’t starve if they only eat a portion of your planned meal. Also, if you are planning right to include leftovers, they can grab something from last nights meal to reheat (I often will make a meal that one kid loves one night followed by a meal another kid loves another night – both are happy bc they can either reheat leftovers of what they liked, or they know if they get through tonights meal, they have their fave the next night. Or deconstruct your meals so they appeal more to others – leave some meatballs plain, have some chicken available without a sauce, allow some to make taco salads or taco bowls not tacos, …Dinner a Love Story breaks down deconstructing meals REALLY well as a resource (cookbook and site) and 5) memories like your easy picnic will be remembered and not the specific food you ate vs stressing out making special sandwiches and cut up organic fruit, which might be remembered because you wig out and are not enjoying the fun! Memories around meals generally are about the FUN so give yourself a pat on the back that you created a fun time even if it involved the golden arches – this is what family life is all about! And eating fast food or not as nutritious SOME of the time and good meals the rest of the time is still a pretty good balance!

  • Sa

    I’m super visual too and Pinterest has been a huge help in meal planning for me! I just create a weekly board for our meals, granted I only have a husband to make happy and no kids yet so the task is much easier!

  • Evilisa

    I’m with Payam, make what you make. But one change, whatever you make, make it almost bland and serve with an array of condiments. I discovered when Cam was a pre-teen, what he really wanted was to alter food to suit him (usually sriracha). Dipping sauces, shaker adds (parm, pepper, nuts or crunches). I got a lot of veggies in that boy with store bought fried won-tons.

  • Jillian

    My husband is ex-military who used to eat the same exact thing for lunch every day and the same exact thing for dinner every day. I’m ex-spacy who used to get off work and go to the grocery store to grab whatever looked good. Failing that, I would have mac and cheese or popcorn. You can imagine the interesting head butting when we got married.

    Now, because I LOVE lists, we plan out our meals two (You read that right- TWO) weeks in advance. We go grocery shopping every two weeks too. While it does cut down on stress, it is very weird for me.

    When his sister moved in I had to start accounting for another person. Who doesn’t like a lot of the things we like (mushrooms, black olives, sausage). So I’ve been finding new recipes and altering them slightly. Our favorite is the Knock Knock products. We keep the What To Eat one on our fridge so we can always see what is coming up. It dovetails nicely with our All Out Of pad.

    P.S. Please tell me you’ve seen/ heard of/ own Knock Knock. They seem right up your alley!!

  • Gingermog

    I loved the delicious platter of food your served us as our day spread out into evening. We really enjoyed your company and want to do it again. Presently I’m sitting back in my studio procrastinating terribly ( still jet lagged … or lazy?), before beginning my newest project, whilst drinking a lovely pear and ginger white tea from Trader Joe’s (which sadly we don’t have in Europe even though I’ve sent them a wheedling letter years ago asking them to please reconsider).

    I think your family are very lucky you care so much about pleasing them … but then I don’t have kids picky or otherwise to try and tempt to eat healthily. Matt, luckily is happy to eat vegetarian, although I stress he can eat meat and occasionally I cook it, to keep my hand in. At the moment though I am investigating in alternative flours & “natural sugars” in cakes etc to varying degrees of sucsess. My buckwheat waffles weren’t exactly light and fluffy. Ho, hum… and my sour dough rye bread could have sunk a boat. Ho, hum,
    Much love xx

  • Tamara Lang

    I menu plan two weeks at a time (because I shop every two weeks.) But I don’t assign meals to days most of the time. I just make a list of 14 meals trying to make sure they aren’t too heavy on one type of meat. Each day I can choose something from the list. It works for us most of the times, even with picky eaters and crazy schedules. If we end up eating out one or two of the nights, those meals move to the next schedule.

    And you are a people pleaser…but you have to let go of the idea that they have to enjoy every meal. (easier said than done.) I want people to appreciate the love and time I put into preparing the meal, and if they don’t enjoy it, it’s hard not to take that personally. But I had to learn that sometimes it was okay. :)

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