At about 4 o’clock every afternoon are you wondering what to feed your family for dinner? You go to the fridge only to find a bag of carrots, some yogurt and the weekends left over takeout. Not too many options for a healthy family meal are there? Taking an hour a week to plan your meals will not only save you time and money but ensures that your family is eating healthy, nutritious food. Following these simple steps will make planning ahead simple.
Make meal planning part of your weekly routine. Schedule the hour you need to plan into your calendar – preferably on the day before you plan to do your grocery shopping.
Sit down with one or two of your favourite cookbooks (pick different ones every week) and decide what you are going to make each day. Here are a few of our favourite cookbooks for family meals.
To make it less onerous break it down by type of meal. For example, choose one casserole recipe, one stir-fry, one pasta etc. Vary the kinds of meat – choose two chicken, two meat, two fish and one veggie meal. Make sure you consider your evening schedule of swimming, hockey, dance or tutoring for the week when you are planning the menu. You might want to consider making one meal that will feed everyone for two nights if you have a night where you will be eating on the fly. Or another great solution for a busy family is a crock pot. Start by planning dinners as these tend to be the most difficult. Then plan lunches and snacks as needed. We recommend keeping your weekly plan so that you can reuse them. Once you have several weeks’ worth of plans you can simply rotate them excluding the meals that weren’t a big hit with the family.
Once you have determined which recipes you are going to prepare, check your kitchen for items that you may already have and ensure that you have enough of the required staples like spices and condiments. Then finish the list off with all of the fresh ingredients you will need for your meal plan.
We recommend setting up a grocery list template based on your grocery store layout. Pre- populate the list with the staples you buy on a regular basis. Keep a stack of lists printed so you can make note of items as you run out of them – particularly useful for condiments and staples you don’t buy frequently but always need to have on hand e.g. flour, mustard, etc. Having the list set-up based on your grocery store layout will assist the infrequent grocery shopper and ensure you get everything on your list without having to double back for missed items.
Although the process seems lengthy and time consuming, there is nothing that will make a busy mom feel better than feeding her family a healthy, homemade meal. If you find this process overwhelming there are companies like Supperworks (www.supperworks.com) that not only plan the menu for you but also have all of the ingredients ready for you to prepare in a jiffy. Best of all they do all of the chopping and cleanup! Be careful though – too many homemade meals and they might just start calling you June Cleaver!