Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tipster Tuesday: Menu Planning

Do you struggle with planning meals for your family? Do you dread hearing these 3 words...What's for dinner? My daily life can get crazy, as I'm sure it can for you. The last thing I want to worry about everyday is what's for dinner. I found myself constantly having trouble coming up with ideas for dinner and it seemed like everytime I did think of something I was always missing that one vital ingredient. Tired of the 5pm craziness? Then a menu plan is the answer for you.

Menu planning means planning your family's meals to help you save time and money. You know in advance what you are going to cook everyday and you have all the needed supplies ready to go. No more last minute runs to the store, no more frantic searches through your freezer or pantry for something, or having to wait for something to thaw for dinner. Most importantly menu planning improves nutrition. It's easier to make sure your family eats healthy and well balanced meals when you prepare meals at home because you are in control of the ingredients. With a little thought and planning ahead of time, you can be organized in planning meals for your family.

Once a week, create a menu for all the dinners you will serve for the coming week. Review each of the recipes and list all the items you need to purchase at the store. Your goal is to shop only once a week, so organization is key!

Here are some things to consider when planning meals:
  • Keep it Simple: Start slow and keep things simple until you feel confident in your menu planning skills. When planning your weekly list think of meals that are both nutritious and frugal. Look through your recipe box, cookbooks, websites, and other favorite sources and choose recipes that you know you can make and that your family will enjoy.
  • Grocery Ads: Check and see what is on sale at your grocery store and plan meals around those items. Think about the meat and produce on sale. Keep an open mind while shopping. Be sure to stock up on good buys and freeze them to help you plan future meals. Serve leftovers for lunch the next day.
  • Stockpile: The foods in your stockpile are those you know your family likes. To save money, find recipes that use those ingredients you already have on hand. Review your shopping list and note any needed items.
  • Produce: When buying vegetables, plan your meals around them to avoid wasting food. Include one or two meatless meals a week. Need ideas? Be sure to check out the weekly Veggie Delights post every Friday!
  • Personal shopping list: Construct your personal shopping list according to the order you shop the store. You'll speed your way out the door!
  • Create a routine: Look for cues in the family schedule. Plan a fancy meal for those days with more free time and keep it simple on hectic days. Make the routine yours and it will serve you well. Post the menu plan on the refrigerator door. Refer to it during the coming week as you prepare meals.
  • Shake Things Up: Have fun with menu planning! Menu plans don't have to be written in stone. If something comes up and you can’t make the meal you originally had planned or you don’t feel like it, then simply make something else.
  • It's that easy! After you've made menu plans for a few weeks, rotate the weekly plans around and save yourself even more time.The more menu planning you do, the easier it will become. Remember to have fun with the process, get your children involved, and enjoy watching how your life and budget improve with menu planning.
I've been menu planning for a couple of weeks now and it has simplified my life significantly. I’ve found that it is a relief not having to worry about dinner every night. Menu planning has resulted in less runs to the grocery store, less impulse spending, and ultimately more time with my family! =)

Look for my weekly Menu Plan Monday post starting Monday 7/12. Good Luck!

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