Easy Meal Planning to Get Your Family Hiking this Month by Heidi Schertz for Hike it BabyOne of the biggest challenges I face during a Hike it Baby 30 challenge is not the miles, but rather the hungry faces at the end of the day. Did I forget dinner prep? Oops! Looks like it’s time for sandwiches again. Recently, I switched over to meal planning. Not only meal planning, but meal planning for the whole month. It changed my life. My biggest problem now is remembering to defrost or experiencing wild days if I ignore my own plan.

Make it Easy on Yourself

You do not need to create 30 individual, unique and different meals each month. If you like having pizza every Friday, then have pizza! Don’t feel pressured to make different meals. Children, especially, crave consistency and having something that is the same every week really helps stabilize their routines. How else do I make it easy?

Easy Meal Planning to Get Your Family Through a HiB30 Challenge by Heidi Schertz for Hike it Baby

This is my low tech meal plan for the month. As you can see I opted to mix and match recipes from the guide below. I also make the same meal every Monday-Thursday. On the weekends I tend to switch it up more.

  • I shop ahead. I check my cupboard and then create a gigantic list of ALL the items for the month. Then I shop for the bulk of it ahead of time. By combining all the staples and freezable items into one large list, I spend less time at the grocery store and less money. Then I purchase fresh produce the week of during one of my quick trips. It’s my easiest tip and the one that makes the most impact on my ability to get dinner on the table.
  • If you don’t want to buy all the ingredients ahead due to space or monetary factors, I still suggest buying the first week ahead of time. It’s worth it to sit down for five minutes and make four lists and then stick to them. You’ll save time and money.
  • Some months I plan six meals, with one day of leftovers, and repeat that for each week of the month. Other months I plan two weeks worth of meals and alternate them throughout the month. No one has complained yet about the repetition, and I’ve been cooking this way for over a year.
  • If I’m not going to repeat weeks, then I typically like to make the same type of thing on the same day. Taco Tuesdays is a great example. Soup on Wednesdays is another.
  • Lunch is usually leftovers or sandwiches.
  • We typically budget at least one day of eating out a month.
  • I use the Pepperplate app on my phone to schedule meals and generate shopping lists. However, you can always go low tech with a pen and paper
  • I place “harder” meals either on a weekend or on days when I know we’ll be home in the afternoon.
  • When making your list, be sure to adjust for the number of people in your house. My two kids together tend to eat one adult serving (except if it’s pasta and then they eat the entire box), so I count our household as having “three adults.” If I make a 4 adult serving meal, I’m usually guaranteed leftovers.
    Easy Meal Planning to Get Your Family Hiking this Month by Heidi Schertz for Hike it Baby

    This is my sample list. You can see that I have the bulk items on the left, these are all things that can be stored for a month. Most of the spices and other ingredients, like mustard, I already have on hand. The right is where I schedule the weekly shopping trips.

Weekly Meal Plans

Here are a few weeks’ worth of meal plans. Each week has six meals, with the assumption that you’ll have leftovers from at least one recipe. I’ve added Omnivore, Vegetarian and Gluten-free options. I’ve found most of these recipes can easily be adapted to avoid common food allergies/diets. There are a few repeats between sections. Also, I’ve tried to have a green veggie in each of these meals, but feel free to substitute with one your kids will eat or add more veggies. You can arrange the meals below to fit your schedule. Or see a recipe from another week you want to try? Go for it!

Omnivore Week 1

  • Grilled Chicken with Rice and Asparagus
  • Pasta with Tomato Meat Sauce: I love to make my pasta sauce the vehicle for tons of veggies my children can’t fight over. I usually increase the spice quantities and add whatever veggie is in my fridge (usually carrots or zucchini). Dice them small or in an immersion blender for full effect. The recipe says to simmer for an hour, but you could just as easily slow cook this or eat it right away, I won’t judge.
  • Chickpea Salad with Roasted Carrots and Feta: Don’t let the list of ingredients fool you. The hardest part is the dressing; the meal can be ready in about 30 minutes.
  • Black Bean Tacos with Rice
  • Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese: I always have one meal that I can throw together the instant I walk in the door. I tend to place this meal on a night when I know we’re going to get home late. Try pairing sliced Granny Smith apples with cheddar if you feel fancy.
  • Homemade Sausage Pizza: We use a pre-made pizza dough instead of the pre-baked pizza crust, and we have found that the kids love to spread the dough while I slice toppings. Bonus: if you don’t use the whole pound of ground beef for the pasta, you can use that as a pizza topping instead. (I also recommend two pizzas if you have older kids.) Store-bought is always an option as well.
  • Leftovers

Omnivore Week 2

  • Pork Chops in a Mushroom Soup Gravy with Green Peas: Take a can of mushroom soup and pour over pork chops in a frying pan. Cook until meat thermometer reaches appropriate temperature. Flip once. Thin-cut cooks faster and makes it easier for kids to cut themselves.
  • Crockpot Sweet Potato, Black Bean Quinoa Chili: Slow cookers are a great way to cook while you hike. Bonus: if you live in an area where September is still summertime, you don’t heat the house up!
  • Creamy Chili Sauce with Zucchini, Spinach and Pasta : If you want more protein, try one of the chickpea or lentil pastas. They are very filling and have a great texture and taste like regular pasta.
  • Baked Omelet Pie (aka Frittata): What’s great about a frittata is that if you make it ahead of time, you can serve it sliced like pizza and the kids can eat it with their hands. This one is a great combo of ham, red pepper and mushroom. Add a side of your favorite biscuit or toast and you’re set.
  • Slow Cooker Barbeque: It’s easy and quick to serve. Serve with coleslaw. Yum!
  • Grilled Pesto Chicken and Tomato Kebabs: The genius here is that you can have older kids help you skewer the food in the morning before hiking. Then pop onto a grill or pan fry when you get home. Serve over rice.
  • Leftovers

Vegetarian Week 1

  • Cheesy Lentil Bake with Side of Green Beans: My family loves to serve this with salsa or hot sauce. It’s so delicious, non-vegetarians won’t miss the meat.
  • Black Bean Tacos with Rice
  • Sweet Potato Lentil Dal Served with Rice
  • Sesame Soba Noodles Served with Pan Fried Tofu for extra protein
  • Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Veg: Toss in as many veggies as you can find and give it a blend at the end. I always substitute for vegetarian broth and it’s delicious.
  • Quinoa and Black Beans: This dish is one that can easily be customized to your tastes. Feeling Mediterranean? Top with feta and olives. Want to indulge your need for tacos? Top with taco seasoning or salsa and guacamole.
  • Leftovers

Vegetarian Week 2

  • Crockpot Sweet Potato, Black Bean Quinoa Chili: Slow Cookers are a great way to cook while you hike. Bonus: if you live in an area where September is still summertime, you don’t heat the house up!
  • Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese: Tomato and Grilled Cheese is a huge comfort meal in our house. It easily throws together and requires almost no prep. If you want, you can make fancier grilled cheese with avocado or pears in addition to the cheese.
  • Easy Vegan Red Lentil Dal: Lentils are fast becoming a comfort food in my home.
  • One Pan Crack Bean Burritos: It’s quick, easy and delicious.
  • Chickpeas in Tumeric Peanut Butter Curry: For those with peanut sensitivities, cashew or almond butter would probably also be amazing.
  • One of my favorite dinners is actually breakfast! Pick your favorite pancake recipe and whip it together. Top with jam or peanut butter. Add a side of cheesy eggs and you’ve got dinner.
  • Leftovers

Gluten-free Week 1

  • Chickpea Salad with Roasted Carrots and Feta: This recipe is worth the ingredient list. Pop it in the oven and it practically makes itself. 
  • Black Bean Tacos with Rice: I have found that steaming the corn tortillas dramatically increases how flexible the corn tortillas are and prevents breakage. My sister swears by tossing them on top of her rice cooker while the rice is cooking.
  • Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Salad: This one might need to be tamed down for the spice-sensitive people and the kids, but some sour cream would work great with that. Besides, it can’t always be about the kids. 😉
  • Creamy Chili Sauce with Zucchini, Spinach and Pasta: You’ve probably located your favorite GF pasta by now, but if you haven’t tried one of the chickpea or lentil pastas, I really encourage you to do so. They are very filling and have a great texture.
  • Quinoa and Black Beans: There are a million ways to make this dish your own and flavorful. It’s also good as is, in case you aren’t feeling experimental.
  • Grilled Pesto Chicken and Tomato Kebabs: The genius here is that you can have older kids help you skewer the food in the morning before hiking. Then pop onto a grill or pan fry when you get home. Serve over rice.
  • Leftovers

Gluten-free Week 2

  • Crockpot Sweet Potato, Black Bean Quinoa Chili: Throw the ingredients in and cook while you hike? Check. Delicious? Also check. 
  • Slow Cooker Enchilada Quinoa Bake
  • Baked Omelet Pie (aka Frittata): Sometimes I like to make this the night before and serve it cold. The problem with this strategy is that it sometimes gets eaten for breakfast also. This Fritatta is a ham, red pepper mix, but you could easily change out the veggies for ones you have in the fridge.
  • Up for a Slow Cooker Barbeque? Check to make sure your sauce is gluten-free or make your own. Put on your favorite GF roll or on top of mashed potatoes.
  • Lentils and Spinach with a Side of Steamed Cauliflower: This is another recipe that allows you to start the cooking process and then clean the kids up before it’s ready.
  • Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Rice Bowls: I love things that you can make ahead of time if you want. But to be honest, this one won’t make it to the fridge because it will all be eaten (most likely by me).
  • Leftovers

Dessert & Snack Options

Try one of these recipes for those celebratory moments during your challenge. Most are Vegetarian and Gluten-free (though I’m sure you can add meat or gluten if you feel strongly about that).

Do you have a favorite recipe you cook when you hike? What are the ones you fall back on during challenge months. Share with us below!

Photos Courtesy of Melissa Hollingsworth and Heidi Schertz

One thought on “Easy Meal Planning to Get Your Family Hiking this Month

  • campbellb29@gmail.com
    Bernadette Connor

    Thank you for this awesome insight into your meal planning!! It’s really the most challenging thing for us right now, and I don’t like having to think about food all day every day! We are going to try a full month meal plan this month for the challenge…and probably just use yours!! Thank you!

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