Meal planning doesn’t have to be an unpleasant chore. Make it fun by including your family in meal choices.
Knowing what you will cook in advance keeps you from that dreaded ‘What will I cook for Dinner’ question that many families face.
It will also save you time and money because you’ll be able to see more accurately how to use leftovers for future meals.
Menu planning is good for other reasons too. It helps you plan your shopping trips more effectively. It helps you provide healthy and tasty meals. It also prevents the quick drive-through runs on busy days.
There are no more excuses for empty refrigerators. Plan, stock up, and start cooking balanced meals for your family.
Menu Planning in 8 Easy Steps
1. Take Stock of Your Pantry
Look through your pantry and cupboards and make a mental note of what you have. For example if you have pasta or rice then create a couple of meals around those.
2. Plan Your Menu for the Week
Write down each dinner and remember to make allowances for busy days. If you know ahead of time Tuesdays are stressful then plan a simple meal or leftovers. You can vary the meal by changing one or two things around. i.e. rice instead of potatoes
3. Prepare Your Shopping List
Once the menu planning is done write a shopping list. Double check your pantry, cupboards and fridge just to make sure you’re not doubling up on something you don’t need. Add the items you’ll need for breakfast, lunch and snacks to your list. It’s not necessary to plan these meals but make sure you include enough of the foods you usually need on your list.
4. Shop Wisely
Although going to the supermarket once a week is a good way to save time and avoid overspending, it may not always be possible for all items. For instance fresh fruits and vegetables wilt and rot quickly so you may want to shop twice a week for these. Just stick to your list and the produce isle to avoid overspending.
5. Include Meals That Are Nutritious and Frugal
When meal planning think of meals that are both nutritious and frugal. Casseroles, stews and pasta can be quite inexpensive plus they are usually easy to prepare. Include a couple of vegetarian meals a week to save money. You can make a nutritious meat-free chili or cheesy pasta bake. Tuna is another great frugal food you can add to pasta or rice dishes.
Try a Japanese rice ball also known as onigiri with a tuna salad center. Not only are they yummy but children love to help shape the balls. Another great feature of these treats is that they store well and can be used for a quick meal.
6. Plan Fresh Food Choices
When you’re buying your vegetables plan your meals around them to avoid wasting food. When you buy a bag of carrots include them in several dinners or use them for snacks. This helps to avoid having a fridge full of expired produce at the end of the week.
7. Utilize Your Freezer
Think ahead and use your freezer. If you’re making something that freezes well like spaghetti sauce, a stew or casserole make a double portion and freeze it. You’ll thank yourself on those days where you just don’t have the time or desire to cook.
8. Plan to Save Time in the Kitchen
Don’t forget your menu. It’s easy to slip into old habits so stick your menu on your fridge or other prominent place and plan ahead each day.
If you’re making a crock-pot stew cut the veggies the night before and add them to your crock-pot in the morning.
Leave your meat thawing in the fridge during the day. Take your non-perishable dinner ingredients out so that you can easily start cooking once you get home.
Meal planning is a great way to save time and money plus if done right it can be fun. Let your children assist in planning at least one dinner. Remember to think about using all ingredients in multiple meals throughout your week. Have fun.
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Never worry about what's for dinner again. I've got you covered with the meal plans in the Once a Week Cooking Club. Cook once, eat all week.
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