Well, here we are.

It’s the end of 2017 and I know I’m not alone in saying: BYE, FELICIA. It’s been…real. As in, real bad.

In some ways, I guess I owe 2017 something. It was, after all, the year that taught me, more than any other, how to truly adult. J. and I faced challenge after challenge this year, setback after setback — so many, so close together, in fact, that his new boss recently joked with him “I figure you’ll resign any day now, seeing as how I must be your bad luck charm. Right after you started working for me, your life fell apart!”

Yeah, it’s been like that. This was the year we had the old deck rot straight off the back of the house, found out squirrels were living under the eaves, discovered massive damage to several areas of the roof, survived two car accidents less than 3 weeks apart, I had my wallet stolen during a business trip and almost couldn’t get home…so many things happened. And of course, this year also dealt us several personal blows in the form of major losses: My grandmother, J.’s uncle, my mom. All taken by 2017. Not to mention the catastrophic health setbacks our dear sister-in-law endured, and the major impact on her family. 2017 took from us, and took from us, and took from us.

I sat with my notebook trying to formulate a meal plan to start 2018, and all I could think as I stared at that blank page was “Where do we go from here?”

Up, I hope. God, please, only up from here. Tomorrow it will be exactly one month since my mother’s sudden passing. It’s not exactly an auspicious way to start a new year, knee-deep in grief with no end in sight. But.

We’re still here. We’re still standing, astonishingly so. And there is nothing to do but carry on, as we have done all year. So while it was hard, impossibly hard, to try to write a meal plan and think of ordinary things, it was also one of the most important hard things that I have done lately because it’s the road map that will hopefully lead me back to something that feels sort of like normal.

First order of business for 2018: Get the freezer re-stocked with meals. I did a great job helping myself out last summer and early fall by cooking double batches and freezing them, a gift which was even more crucial than I realized it could be, when things continually fell apart around us and there were dinners ready to go at a moment’s notice. Now they’re depleted, and even if I don’t feel much like filling the freezer back up, I now fully understand just how valuable that peace of mind can be. So freezer meals are a big theme this month.

Second order of business for 2018: Favorites. Comfort meals. Things that will make everyone happy. Sure, I always try to make dinners that will please people, but right now it feels strangely important to imprint those food memories for the kids. Maybe it’s because we just had the holidays, and my sister and I were faced with Mom’s recipe collection and trying to figure out where long-forgotten favorites were buried. Maybe it’s because I made chicken and dumplings the other night for the first time in a long time, and every bite reminded me of her. Maybe it’s a lot of things, but it’s also practical: When you’re struggling to write a meal plan, falling back on the old standbys that you know will be eaten without complaint is a relatively uncomplicated way to go.

Third order of business for 2018: Breathe.

We’ve got this. Tradition, and routine, and normalcy, are all the important things right now. We may not know where we’re going from here, exactly, but I know that we won’t get anywhere unless we plant our feet and keep getting up to face the day.

January 2018 Meal Plan


Monday, 1/1: We’re cozying up with a New Year’s Day brunch, movies and board games today; dinner can be some of the final holiday leftovers before we return to “real life” tomorrow!
Tuesday, 1/2: Chicken and lentil soup, bread (I’ll double the soup and put half in the freezer)
Wednesday, 1/3: Sheet pan pork and sweet potato satay
Thursday, 1/4: Turkey tacos (I’ll double the taco filling for the freezer)
Friday, 1/5: Shepherd’s pie and salad
Saturday, 1/6: Chicken Milanese, risotto and roasted vegetables
Sunday, 1/7: Spaghetti and meatballs, salad (I’ll double the meatballs and sauce for the freezer)


Monday, 1/8: Clam chowder and bread
Tuesday, 1/9: Meatball subs, salad
Wednesday, 1/10: Apple barbecue pulled pork with navy beans and slaw (I’ll double the pork and beans for the freezer)
Thursday, 1/11: Teriyaki chicken with ginger lo mein noodles
Friday, 1/12: Monte Cristos and sweet potato fries
Saturday, 1/13: Slow cooker bourbon beef stew over egg noodles, salad (I’ll double the stew for the freezer)
Sunday, 1/14: Sunday Roast Chicken dinner


Monday, 1/15: Farro with tomatoes and mozzarella
Tuesday, 1/16: Creamy chicken and wild rice soup, bread (I’ll double the soup for the freezer)
Wednesday, 1/17: Slow cooker turkey breast with herb gravy, stuffing and vegetables (I’ll make two turkey breasts, one for the freezer)
Thursday, 1/18: Pasta Poulet and salad
Friday, 1/19: Homemade pizzas
Saturday, 1/20: Half-lentil meatloaf, homemade macaroni and cheese and vegetables
Sunday, 1/21: Forty clove garlic chicken, mashed potatoes and salad


Monday, 1/22: Farfalle with creamy wild mushroom sauce, asparagus
Tuesday, 1/23: Simplest stuffed peppers and bread (I’ll make a second pan of peppers for the freezer)
Wednesday, 1/24: DIY Sushi bowls
Thursday, 1/25: Sheet pan candied rosemary chicken
Friday, 1/26: Breakfast for dinner
Saturday, 1/27: Chicken quesadillas, refried beans and rice
Sunday, 1/28: Braciole, garlic bread and salad


Monday, 1/29: Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
Tuesday, 1/30: Chicken and broccoli alfredo
Wednesday, 1/31: Burgers and fries