Meal Planning

“What’s for dinner?”  A question we contemplate on a daily basis.

We find ourselves standing in front of the fridge, trying desperately to scramble together a meal for our family.  Sometimes we end up making breakfast for dinner, or the good ‘ol standby, a box of Kraft Dinner.  Or my kid’s personal favorite, calling for take-out pizza!

But wait…….dinner doesn’t have to be like this.  There is hope.

When I was young, I remember sitting with my mom at the kitchen table and watching her diligently put together a weekly “menu”.  She would take out a fresh piece of paper and write out the days of the week.  Under each day she would choose the meal we would be eating.  As she would go along, she would also write out a grocery list that consisted of the things she needed to buy for the week.

When I got married, I was working full-time and wouldn’t get home until 6:00.  I would stand in front of the fridge and panic, “What am I going to make for dinner?”  Let’s just say we ate a lot of take-out and scrambled eggs.  But when we started our family, I knew we couldn’t keep eating like that.

Then I remembered the menu planning I learned as a child.  Immediately I knew I had to implement that.  Five years later, I’m still making my weekly menu!

No more standing in front of the fridge wondering what to feed my family.  I just pull out the menu each evening to check and see what we’ll be eating the next night.  I can then take the appropriate meat out of the freezer or get together the ingredients for a scrumptious slow cooker meal.

Easy, peasy.  And you can do it too with just a few simple steps.

First, start with a list of your family’s favorite meals.  At our house, that includes chicken fingers and fries, pizza, spaghetti, soup with bread, and maybe some more pizza!  Then go through your cookbooks for some recipes you would like to try.   If you don’t have cookbooks, the internet is a great resource.  There are tonnes of recipe sites out there, as well as some helpful meal planning blogs (including mine!).

Once you’ve compiled a list of meals you would like to eat, get a sheet of paper and write out the days of the week.  Under each day, write down the meal you’ll be making for dinner that night.  For example, in our house, tonight we’ll be having Asian Salmon with fries and steamed broccoli.  Tomorrow it’s Turkey Chili with buns.  And so on.

Then make out a grocery list of the things you’ll need to make those meals.  Of course, you’ll want to include the basics on your list too, such as bread, milk, snacks for the kids, etc.

After your menu and corresponding grocery list is complete, it’s time to go grocery shopping!

Now, instead of running to the store each day to get the things you need, you’ll only have to go there once a week!  I pick one day that I plan my menu and grocery list (usually Tuesdays) and then I pick one day to shop (usually Wednesdays).  However, if you work, you might want to make that day Saturday or Sunday.  I used to shop early Saturday mornings.  My husband would watch the kids while I quietly shopped for groceries with a Starbucks coffee in hand!  Who knew grocery shopping could be so relaxing…..

Meal planning takes the “what’s for dinner?” question right out of the equation.  No more stressing about what to cook!  No more scrambled eggs for dinner (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

One more tip: keep your weekly menus, don’t throw them out at the end of the week.  I keep a few weeks worth of menus on hand so that if I run out of meal ideas, I can just look back and copy some of the meals we’ve had in the past.  Sometimes I highlight the ones that the kids gobbled up so that I can make them more often.  Or sometimes I cross meals off the list that not everyone enjoyed!

So there you have it.  That’s how I plan our meals.

With a few minutes of planning each week, you can make a weekly menu that takes the stress out of the question, “What’s for dinner?!”

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