Empty Nest, Abundant Life

Nag Less, Pray More

Meal Planning

Dinner time has changed in the Clark house over the course of our 26 year marriage.  It began with painful attempts on my part to cook and a stubborn refusal to accept my efficient husband’s suggestions for improvement.  Then came the years of distracted dining with newborns, infants, and toddlers, as we went from spoon feeding our children to teaching them how to feed themselves.  The longest era of Clark dinners were the busy ones carved out between children’s activities, full of chatter and family-friendly foods.  Slowly, the times when all four of us could eat dinner began to diminish as our children obtained jobs and social lives away from our home.  When both children moved away, I tended to still cook as they were home, leaving many leftovers of foods that weren’t nutritionally best for us.  I definitely needed to change the way we planned for meals in our home

Now, each week, I print out a grocery shopping master checklist I developed on Microsoft Word, containing our favorite ingredients in the order we like to shop for them in the store.  The different headings include:  Produce, Meats, Cheeses, Refrigerated Items, Dairy. Frozen Foods, Canned and Bottled Goods, Dry Goods, Paper Products, Beverages, Breads, Toiletries, Cleaning Supplies, and Hardware.  Then I determine how many dinners we will be eating at home as well as the staples we need for breakfasts and lunches.

During the past two years, I have worked to reduce fat, sugar, and carbohydrate intake while increasing protein for my husband and I.  I have also been diagnosed with dairy and soy food sensitiviies .  My favorite recipe websites are those that contain recipes submitted by other people just trying to put dinner on the table like I am.   Reading reviews on each recipe from others who have attempted the recipe alerts me to any problematic elements of the recipes as well as tweaks I can make to enhance the flavor.  I have also enjoyed those sites that allow searches based on either ingredient, length of preparation time, and health parameters (calories, amount of fat, grams of protein, and more).  I love that all the nutritional values from these websites have already been entered into https://www.myfitnesspal.com/ so I can track my caloric intake and my nutritional value with the click of a button instead of painstakingly thumbing through calorie counting books every single ingredient as I remember my mother doing during many of my growing up years.  My two favorite recipe websites that I use on a weekly basis are https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/ and http://allrecipes.com/ . I then print out the recipes and transfer the ingredients I don’t have to the shopping list.

As my husband and I sample each recipe, we evaluate it and decide whether we like to use this recipe again in the future.  We also talk about changes that we would make.  We have expanded our culinary horizons and discovered many new foods that we can enjoy together.  What are your favorite recipe websites and ways to plan for dinners in your empty nest?

Bon Appetit!




  1. Melissa Hickey

    April 9, 2017 at 10:29 pm

    I have been introduced to the Instant Pot and having fun creating meals with it. It’s known for its pressure cooking abilities, but has so much more. It’s fun Googling IP recipes and having them ready in a fraction of the time most dinners take to make.

    • Instant Pots are a big thing around here too. My sister-in-law swears by hers. Maybe I’ll have to get one in the future. Every time I see my Crock Pot, I think of your devotion to the one my mom got you for your wedding.

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