Returning to Routine + Share Your Favorite Go-To Meal Ideas

We’re currently on a year-long Home Assignment. Pretty much the antithesis of routine, right? I know you understand the nomadic life of moving from place to place every few weeks or months while in your home country.

We’re on the tail end of a 3-week road trip right now. Routine what?

Which is why I’m craving a routine when we get home in a few days. No more driving for multiple hours. No more fast food for a long while. (Hallelujah!) No more, β€œNow, who are these new friends? Do they have kids? How many? How old? How long will we stay with them?”

I’m so thankful for how well our 3 kids just went with the flow and adapted to 10+ beds/rooms in the past few weeks. Really, I could learn a thing or two from how quickly and easily they jump into new surroundings and friendships.

Yet we all crave routine.

It’s not easy to stay consistent, though. I get distracted, sucked into something more interesting for the moment, lazy, or busy. Just like other temptations, those things satisfy me for a while, until I finally notice that quiet whisper, calling me back into a rhythm. I think of Jesus when he would minister to hundreds of people, teaching and healing them for days on end, but then he needed to sneak away for some rest, reconnection with his Father, and perhaps finding a routine again.

Every stage of life has a different-looking routine. I can remember the days of college and pre-marriage of hour and a half quiet times. I’d journal, read scripture, write out what I was learning, and then read some of another book. When I was teaching full time, I’d get up at 5am to do this! It was a sweet, sweet time, and I know it’ll happen again someday.

Fast forward a few years and we had 3 kids 5 and under and I barely knew which way was up. Sleep deprivation was constant and it was all I could do to stay afloat. I remember trying to get up earlier than the kids to have some quiet time, but somehow, they could sense my body heat in the living room, and would join me every time. If I tried to stay up late to read, I was out cold in 5 minutes.

It was a stage with a routine of diapers, constantly looking at the clock, trying to remember who needed to take a nap when and who needed to eat next. Even though there weren’t long periods of times when they all napped at the same time, I would try to create at least a little quiet space for myself. Often, it would be interrupted with a hungry baby and instead of reading my Bible, I’d end up praying while nursing. And that was ok.

Now that my kids are a little older, I can create different routines. (Mamas of babies and toddlers, I’m finally on the other side to tell you it actually does get better!) While my youngest naps, the older two have a few hours of quiet play and reading, which frees me up to mostly do what I want during that time. When it all works out, it’s glorious for everyone involved!

I’ve noticed when any of us get off our routine for a while, we start to get at each other more. Grace and patience are thrown aside, while selfishness and bad attitudes creep in. When it has gone on for a while and I’m starting to pull my hair out, I start to analyze what the cause could be. Nearly every time it comes down to my inconsistent parenting and lack of routine.

When we know a general idea of what to expect, we can function better, get more done, and usually with a better attitude.

Now, as I type that, I have to also remind myself that life is full of unexpected things and I have to continually check my heart’s reactions to these situations. When an unexpected visitor knocks on my door while I’m in the middle of home schooling, I need to be ok with answering and seeing if it’s something I can handle quickly. Or when our local boss tells us we’ll be going downtown to take care of visa paperwork tomorrow morning, and it’ll take half the day, and it doesn’t matter what I had planned, I need to be ok with letting go of my plans and remembering what takes precedence.

Flexibility is a great attribute to learn, but like Jesus, in between the chaos, I want to find the routine of life that brings peace and reminds me to continually surrender control to God, no matter what is happening.

Routines will look different through the various stages of life. Meeting with Him, time with my husband and kids, and ministry will ebb and flow as the variables continue to change. May I seek contentment in each stage, knowing He can work through me every step of the way.

What helps you stay in a routine? When you get knocked out of a routine, what brings you back?


Since the theme is routine, I thought we’d do something a little different, where we can all participate sharing recipes and meal ideas! I know many people who have some sort of meal rotation. Whether weekly, monthly, or maybe just a list to choose from, we all have go-to meals that our families love, are easy to make in our part of the world, or could feed an unexpected crowd.Β Could you comment below and share some of your favorite meal ideas?Β You can simply tell us the name and we can look it up, or you can link a specific recipe. How fun to have recipes that can be made around the world! Who doesn’t love a giant list of new already-tried meals?! I’m so excited!

I’ve already shared lots of our family favorites in previous posts, so I look forward to seeing your ideas!


  1. Patty October 14, 2018

    Chicken, potatoes, and green beans . All in one dish.
    Cut up the chicken into nugget size and cut the potatoes into nugget size.
    In a long glass dish, I spray with olive oil or rub a little to grease the pan.
    Put potatoes down one side chicken in the middle, and green beans down the other side.
    Sprinkle with garlic salt or small pieces. Sprinkle with oregano. Put a few drops of butter over all of it. Cover with aluminum foil.
    Bake in 350 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 min. 5-10 longer if it a large dish.

    Very tasted.

    1. Bayta Schwarz October 15, 2018

      That sounds great! Will have to try πŸ™‚

    2. Lisa O'Brien October 16, 2018

      Thanks for sharing! That was our supper this evening! I added some onions too….so good! Simple, easy, fast, tasty, and made the house smell lovely! It’s nice to add some variations to the dinner routine. πŸ™‚

    3. Ashley Felder October 17, 2018

      Simple, classic, and versatile. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Dana October 14, 2018

    My kids call this “Egg bake” and it’s a make-ahead breakfast, brunch, after-school snack, or random weeknight dinner. I make two 9×13’s at a time, and each time it’s different as this is a great clean-out-the-fridge dish. Really more of a template than recipe. Just put some torn-up or cut bread (approx 6 slices), tortillas or rolls in the bottom of a greased baking dish. Add a layer of vegetables (broccoli, spinach, onion, mushrooms… nothing too watery, and pre-cook if needed). Add a layer of meat if you like (sausage, ham, etc). Add a layer of any kind of shredded cheese. Sprinkle with black pepper, garlic powder, whatever you like. Cheese is usually salty enough but add some salt if needed. Pour over a mix of beaten eggs & milk. For two pans I use 15-16 eggs and about 3 cups of milk. For one pan, use 8-10 eggs and around 1.5-2 cups of milk. There’s really no way to mess this up. Bake it immediately at around 350F (170c) for around 25-30minutes. Or, refrigerate overnight and bake the next day. I cut it up into squares and put it in the fridge, the kids reheat it for breakfast all week. (My kids prefer it more eggy than custardy. If it’s too soft, use dryer bread and less milk next time).

    1. Ashley Felder October 17, 2018

      It’s taken a long time, but I’m finally becoming a tad better at throwing leftovers to create something. This sounds great! And, make-ahead? Yes please! (Not a morning chef here. ;))

    2. Angie November 1, 2018

      I made this last night and baked it for dinner tonight. I used bread and spinach that needed to be used up and ham I had already cubed. Cheap and easy! I love that I can get a dozen eggs at Aldi for 62 cents – 62 cents! Overseas eggs were 35 cents a piece!
      Anyway, thanks for the idea!

  3. Debra Anne Jordan October 15, 2018

    A friend shared a recipe for green beans (tonight) of all things. Sounded pretty good, actually. A clean diet of veggies and loads of green beans. Not sure if we can use olive oil on the green beans, but it sure would make them taste good. Play & healthy eating goes a long way.

    1. Ashley Felder October 17, 2018

      Would you mind sharing the recipe? Our family loves green beans!

  4. Phyllis October 15, 2018

    I was excited to find this simple recipe for enchilada sauce recently.
    (The paprika we have here works well for the pepper.) It’s not a whole meal to share, but we’ve been enjoying meals made from it: the taco soup linked there (I think?), enchiladas, and enchilada casserole.

    Our more standard go-to meals would be things like borsch and plov. I usually suggest Natasha’s Kitchen blog as a good source for English language and American ingredients recipes like that, but I don’t actually cook from them myself.

    1. Ashley Felder October 17, 2018

      Yes! I’ve made enchilada sauce a few times. Thanks for sharing! If my hubby enjoyed enchiladas more, I’d be all over it. He’s more of a taco guy.

  5. Lindsey October 15, 2018

    Cheeseburger Rice

    Great dish to use up leftover rice and/or leftover mince/hamburger meat.

    1 cup rice
    1 pound mince
    1 tbs. mustard
    3/4 c. tomato sauce/ketchup
    Cheddar cheese

    Cook rice. Brown mince in skillet. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add mustard and ketchup. Top with cheddar cheese and serve from skillet– one pot meal, easy clean up and using up leftovers= win win in my family! πŸ™‚

    1. Ashley Felder October 17, 2018

      I have a cheeseburger soup recipe, but I like this idea better! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Kara October 15, 2018

    Not a recipe exactly, but the only meal plan which works for our family of 5 is to have a theme for each day of the week. I find this is flexible but gives us enough structure so we don’t eat pasta every night.
    To make meals easy, we buy frozen vegetables. Now there is more lettuce available most of the year so I’m trying to always have some washed in the fridge for easy salads. We roast chicken (whole or breasts) on the weekend, cut it up and freeze it in portions easy for any meal all week.
    Monday- pasta dish (any vegetable steamed or cooked, cut up cooked chicken, any noodles; can make a pesto or creamy pesto, or red sauce, or just olive oil and herbs.
    Tuesday – chicken tacos or wraps with chicken and peanut-sauce
    Wednesday – rice (stir fry beef, brocolli, carrots, soy-based sauce.
    Thursday – soup
    Friday – pizza (homemade ‘pizza hut’ dough –
    or Focaccia (in less than an hour!)
    Sandwich Saturday ( my husband’s invention- chicken breast, roasted, then covered with bacon and a slice of cheese. We buy fresh bread, and sometimes have spinach and mustard dressing to make them like restaurant style sandwiches.

    1. Ashley Felder October 17, 2018

      What a great idea to have a theme each day! Keeps it interesting, yet you don’t have to come up with a new meal each day because you already know the genre. Genius! I may be adapting this. πŸ™‚ Oh, and that focaccia looks amazing. Excited to try it!

  7. Cecily October 15, 2018

    Omelettes are quick and easy. For mine, I use two eggs, 1 Tablespoon milk, 4 cherry tomatoes (cut up), and cheese. Sometimes I add fresh spinach. (Usually the cheese is salty enough that I don’t add salt). I guess nobody really needs a “recipe” for an omelette, but this is my little contribution πŸ™‚

    1. Ashley Felder October 17, 2018

      Thanks for sharing! Omelettes are quick and easy–fits the bill! And, you can add anything to them without messing them up.

  8. Jo October 15, 2018

    Making a curry is nice and can use up a bunch of vegetables. You can eat it vegetarian or add some cooked chicken towards the end. Just sautΓ© onion, bell pepper, carrot, potato, sweet potato, garlic or whatever you have on hand. Add some curry paste and coconut milk till you like the taste and spice level. Serve over rice.

    1. Ashley Felder October 17, 2018

      I make curry weekly. Thanks for reminding me I can change it up even more! I tend do use the same ingredients every time. LOVE curry!!

  9. Michele October 15, 2018

    I’m single and find it hard to get motivated to cook for one, but in winter I like to make a big pot of soup and water it all week for dinner. Lunches are my main and more filling meal. Two of my favorite simple soups to make are pumpkin and carrot ginger.

    1. Patty October 15, 2018

      I am single to Michelle but the chicken, green bean, potato can be done for one or two. Save the extra for another meal. Just warm up

      1. Michele October 16, 2018

        Except I don’t eat meat here and I don’t have an oven! πŸ™‚

      1. Michele October 16, 2018

        This sound really good- thanks! Always up for a new soup recipe, especially when it looks as easy as this one does!

    2. Ashley Felder October 17, 2018

      Can you share your soup recipes? They sound perfect for fall!

  10. Spring October 15, 2018

    This isn’t a meal idea but my instant pot has been very lifegiving to my home ;). Truly it is a help in preparing and cooking meals! As for my go-to meals, I like things where rice adds to the meal and can expand it. When I am cooking for a crowd my thing is soup because I am good at it. In the instant pot for a crowd I often either do dirty rice or chili.

    1. Ashley Felder October 17, 2018

      Being back in the States for a while now, I’m hearing all about the instant pot craze! I think China may sell something similar, so I’ll be on the hunt for one when we return! Sounds amazing…crock pot, rice cooker, and pressure cooker all in one.

  11. Ruth Lemmen October 15, 2018

    I’m usually just cooking for myself and don’t mind leftovers, so my routine is to cook one meal and eat it for the next few days. This week is pasta and meatballs and green beans. If the recipe makes more than 4 servings (and I have the freezer space), I will freeze a serving or two for easy meals when I don’t feel like cooking, or for days I don’t have leftovers. I have a pinterest board with links to recipes I’ve tried successfully (possibly with adaptation, because I don’t follow recipes very strictly):

    One of my favorite meals to make for a group is chili (with a variety of toppings) and cornbread.

    1. Ashley Felder October 17, 2018

      What great finds! I’ll be looking more at that Pinterest board later. πŸ™‚

      Have you ever served chili over rice? One of my teammates our first year did that to make it stretch, and now we have a hard time eating it without rice!

  12. meredith October 16, 2018

    Here’s one of my favorite Peruvian meals…it’s a one pot, if you don’t count the rice you should probably eat with it : )
    You can use dry cilantro and parsley or fresh or omit, and you can add local peppers to onion and garlic beginning if you like spice (here it’s Peruvian aji peppers).
    It’s all about the sauce. It’s pretty hard to mess up unless you overcook the fish.
    P.S. We LOVE the frozen banana nut bar recipe!

    Pescado Sudado
    (Peruvian Steamed Fish)

    ΒΌ cup oil
    1 sliced onion
    2 garlic cloves
    1 teaspoon grated ginger
    1 teaspoon chopped parsley
    1 tsp chopped cilantro (optional)
    ΒΌ c. white wine
    lemon juice from one lemon, or two limes
    4 small tomatoes chopped (slice one to place on top)
    4 fish filets (or four whole small fish if that’s easier where you live)
    salt and pepper
    potatoes and rice

    Heat oil and fry garlic, onion and ginger. Sprinkle parsley and cilantro. Add wine and lemon. Let cook for a few minutes to dissolve alcohol. Salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and place fish on top. Place sliced tomatoes on top of fish. Top and cook for 8-12 minutes. Serve with either/or sliced boiled potatoes and rice.

    1. Ashley Felder October 17, 2018

      This sounds really good! I don’t know how to cook much fish, but I enjoy it! Thanks for sharing!

      Glad you love the banana bars! πŸ™‚

      1. Debra A Jordan October 17, 2018

        All these recipes are awesome. Thanks for sharing ! Recently a friend said matzo ball soup was the remedy for everything. …thought that might be an encouraging word for the fall days ahead of us, and for all the soup lovers out there πŸ™‚

  13. Amy Young October 16, 2018

    I’m loving reading through these comments!! I don’t cook, but I love that you all do :)!

  14. Leigh October 17, 2018

    Thank you, Ashley, for the reminder that it really DOES get easier when you get past toddler stage. I will miss this stage (1 yr old and 4 yr old) but I won’t miss the constant sleep deprivation with a 1 year old who still wakes multiple times a night. Routine? Ah, yes. What a wonderful idea. πŸ™‚ I’m primarily a homemaker but my husband’s unusual schedule has made it difficult to find a constant routine for us all. We are finally learning to work with it rather than against it and he is so good to help me create times of rest and “away”. It has helped tremendously with my physical, mental and emotional well-being (and therefore that of the whole family) πŸ™‚
    . I love the idea of recipe sharing. One of our favorite simple meals is potato fritatta/Spanish tortilla. Another favorite is when my husband and 4 year old prepare a crust and I put in the fillings of a basic quiche with spinach and tomatoes. Do you get the idea that we like our eggs…

    1. Ashley Felder October 17, 2018

      So glad your husband helps with time away! You’re so right that if you get your cup filled, it’ll be that much easier to pour out to your family. Keep it up!

      Great go-to meals! I’m trying to get my fam more on board with eggs…

  15. Diane October 21, 2018

    This is so great, Ashley! I was in need of some new recipe ideas that are eaaaaaasy. Our favorite go-to meal is burrito bowls – usually cooked throughout the day or ahead of time and frozen, but all done in our electric pressure cooker so I can start it in and walk away. My favorite kind of cooking. At the very least, our bowls will have rice, black beans (Nice in the electric pressure cooker because no soaking is necessary), shredded chicken, and cheese.

    On days I have more time and more stuff already bought, we will add salsa, tortilla chips, chopped tomatoes, cut up lettuce, and halved seedless grapes (seems weird but sooo yummy).

    My favorite trick with the shredded chicken is to put frozen breasts in the pressure cooker with some water, cook til done, then shred in an electric mixer using the bread hook. No more tedious shredding with forks.


    1. Ashley Felder October 22, 2018

      So glad this was helpful to you! Burrito bowls–YES! I fully plan on getting some sort of pressure cooker when we go back. Excited for the possibilities!

  16. Angela October 21, 2018

    About a year ago we bought a pressure cooker (similar to an instant pot but I can’t get one over here). I use it every single day. I frequently do a turkey breast (done in 40 minutes) and use the rice function and steam function. That’s how I cook almost all of my veggies. I make mashed potatoes that way because they don’t get soggy in the water. I steam cut up potatoes for 30 minutes and then mash as usual. I steam hard boiled eggs, fish, chicken breasts, etc. It was the absolute best purchase we made!

    1. Ashley Felder October 22, 2018

      So awesome! I can’t wait to get one when we return! Especially for meat when I forget to pull it out and brine it that morning. Hoping it’ll maketough Chinese chicken tender!

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