Meal Planning Made Easy

Roasted Chicken and VegetablesMost people think they don't have time to plan their meals in advance, and as a result are usually scrambling at the end of their busy day to try to think of something quick to put on the table. This lack of planning often takes them to the drive thru lane of a fast food restaurant or a more expensive meal at a sit-down restaurant. But a little extra planning on the front end will lead to spending less time shopping and more time enjoying meals as a family. You'll probably find that you are also spending less money on food in the long run. With these simple steps you'll have a system in place that will take the guess work out of "what's for dinner?".

  • Develop a meal theme for each day of the week. For example, make Monday pasta night, Tuesday chicken night, Wednesday soup night, etc. Within each theme you can vary the entree, but it gives you a rule of thumb to make menu planning easier. Get everyone involved so that you include family favorites.
  • Start a recipe file so you don't waste time hunting for a specific recipe. Clip them onto you menu so they will be readily available for whoever starts the meal preparation.
  • Check the calendar ahead of time to allow for the family's schedule. If you have to be off to an evening event, plan for a crock pot dish that will allow you to add a tossed salad and bread for a meal that doesn't require much preparation.
  • Make a grocery list and check your pantry before heading off to the store. You might want to plan your initial meals around items you have on hand. When you use something up, write it on a magnetic shopping list posted on the refrigerator, so everyone in the family can contribute what is needed.
  • Post the menu, so you can look ahead to the next day and possibly do some pre-prep the day before. This also lets the family know what's for dinner, so who ever gets home first can start to chop and assemble the ingredients. Remember that kids are more apt to try something new, if they help prepare it.
  • Plan to incorporate leftovers into lunches or the next evening's meal. For instance, our recipe for Roasted Chicken and Vegetables (pictured above) can be turned into Roasted Chicken and Rice Soup the next night, or pulled chicken sandwiches by mixing the chicken with some BBQ sauce.
  • Keep staples such as olive oil, canola oil, chopped garlic, canned tomatoes, canned beans, canned vegetables, flour, butter, spices, dry bread crumbs, milk, cheese, fruits, vegetables, pasta, rice, frozen chicken breasts, frozen ground beef, tortillas, bread and crackers on hand for last minute meals if your plan has to be changed.
  • Keep a file of your menus, so they can be recycled when you are too busy to sit down and make a new plan. Most people prepare the same ten dishes over and over, so this will still give you more variety.

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