I’m a big believer in menu planning. In fact, if I had to give one tip to a new mom, it would be to start planning a dinner menu each week.
Dinner is the last meal of the day and a time when families can get together and discuss their day. It is also a hectic meal for busy moms who are just getting off of work or who have been busy with other activities all day.
When it’s late in the evening, and my kids are whining because they are hungry, my menu plan makes it easy to get dinner fixed fast because I already have a meal ready to prepare, with all the ingredients in the refrigerator.
If you are a busy mom, here are some menu planning tips to help make dinner meals easy and even fun:
1. Schedule your meals a week in advance. This is one of the most important planning tips for meals. Knowing what you are going to eat throughout the week means less chance that you will stop off at the closest fast food joint for a convenient, but unhealthy meal. Decide on the last day of the previous week (let’s say Saturday for the sake of argument) what the menu will be for the following week. Create your shopping list from the list of ingredients to avoid buying what you don’t need at the grocery store.
2. Look for bargains. Read your local grocery store’s ad, choosing meats/main ingredients that are on sale that week to decide what you are going to make for your dinners, then shop for your menu items. Matching coupons to items that are on sale is the best way to lower your food costs. If one ingredient is a common denominator in many meals, consider buying in bulk to save money. Common staples like milk, eggs, bread and sugar can be bought in bulk as well. Some stores will have double or triple coupon days when you can save even more.
3. Search online. After a while, your family will get tired of chicken and rice every Thursday. You can get into a menu rut sometimes. Use the Internet to search for new and exciting recipes. My Yummy Dishes board on Pinterest has lots of great meal ideas. You can also get ideas from my weekly Menu Plan Monday posts. Learn to put a twist on old recipes for a new taste.
4. Have a leftover night. After preparing meals for five or six days, there is bound to be some food left over, unless you eat them for lunch, like we do. Designate one night to be leftover night and let everyone mix and match for dinner. It saves mom from having to throw away any food. I also like to plan Breakfast for dinner one night each week, because we don’t have time for a big home-cooked breakfast on weekdays.
5. Cook your meals in advance. After deciding on a menu plan for the week, go ahead and fix as many meals as you can. Choose a day when the entire family can help like Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. Each person can take one meal and fix it for the following week. Once everything has cooled, store it in sealed containers or casserole dishes to be frozen until the night it is needed.
6. Do prep work in advance. All of the meals can’t be cooked at once. Some foods just taste better freshly prepared. For them, so as much prep work in advance as you can. Enlist your kids to help chop (give them the kitchen shears instead) vegetables, dice cooked meat and mix together dry ingredients. The night of the meal, all that is needed is to add the wet ingredients and bake.
Meal time doesn’t have to be all on mom. The entire family can help with dinner so it is a relaxing meal for everyone.
Do you plan a weekly menu?