about basic meal & menu planning.
Get everyone involved!
As a single Mom, I learned early on to include my kids in the meal planning. Asking them what they liked and didn’t like. They didn’t always win in the category of what went on the table but at least they felt like they were part of the process. Every meal was hot (even breakfast) and each meal had a protein, carb and fat balance. Keeping to whole foods as much as possible.
Meal planning should be a family affair, it teaches kids a wonderful life skill as well as the satisfaction of being heard. Learn to delegate some of the prep work, getting every meal on the table can be exhausting! Swap nights with your Spouse, get the kids to make a salad or set the table. (depending on age) and Moms… learn to let it go!!!
Every week we had a cheat meal. Nothing says fun like a Friday night Pizza with a movie and eating in front of the T.V. As the kids got older we made our own Pizza’s from scratch. That wasn’t an easy switch for me as it made more work after a very busy week. But it taught my kids to value the art of cooking their own food, finding the laughter in the situation and giving them the feeling of accomplishment.
And sometimes, there were tears but that’s life and they learned to work it out and work together.
How to implement your own plan?
Make sure you have the basic food requirements met for all family members. Begin by choosing foods and recipes that you like and know how to prepare well and that fit into everyone’s dietary plans. If one or more people have special needs, like diabetics, plan ahead for substitutions either in the food preparation or food substitution for that individual or for those individuals.
Meal planning also depends upon several factors like the number of people eating, mealtimes, budget, available foods, recipes on hand and likes and dislikes of everyone who will be eating.
There are a few things to note when making meal choices and menu planning. First, some foods may be advertised a certain way, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment. For instance, eggs and sausage can be served for dinner, not just breakfast. And waffles can be made from healthy wheat grains and eaten for lunch with fresh fruits instead of sugary syrup and heavy butter for breakfast.
A Sunday favourite for my 2 was pancakes with homemade jam on top. (Jam is one of the easiest things to make and you can control the amount of sugar going in!)
Making a Switch.
As I mentioned, have other family members jump in and prepare meals some nights and on weekends. Kids enjoy making macaroni and cheese, so host mac-n-cheese night on Wednesdays, for example. Then alternate different vegetable combinations, colors and textures to vary the menu on a weekly basis (no need to let boredom takeover on Wednesdays with the same routine!)
To help with family food budget concerns, clip coupons from newspapers, weekend inserts, and any place you can find them.
Also note seasonal food selections for savings.
Create menus and meals based upon what’s on special that week or month. Hint: stock up and store or freeze special-priced items and family favorites when possible and storage room and the budget allows. But don’t overdo it.
Another trick I always used; Make a bigger dinner and use the leftovers for lunch the next day. Once dinner is over, pack it up and stick it in the fridge, that’s one less thing to do in the morning.
Another fun way to save is by trading coupons and working out food deals with friends, family, neighbors, your church group and anyone else who’d like to join in. Food cooperatives and farm markets available in your area may offer special pricing to groups or large purchases. So team up for better purchasing power and split everything up between group members.
If you’re not into that much organization, go one-on-one with a neighbor, other friend or relative. Buy a huge bag of potatoes, onions, oats, and / or other foods, then share.
Here is one special item to note with regards to dietary planning. It’s unfortunate, but fast foods, especially those that are high in fat content (fried, greasy foods), are often cheaper than good, healthy food choices.
For example, lean beef costs more than high-fat beef; cereals high in nutritional value are often priced much higher than the low-cost, sugary brand names. And low income and homeless people are particularly victims of this situation, many times needing to turn to the less healthier food choices for survival. So whenever possible, your plans might want to include donating a portion to homeless shelters and churches who would probably be more than willing to take extras off your hands.
However you make your plan, in the end it will save you time. I started by making a chart and filled it in with easy to prep meals and recipes I could repeat in the week. Like making lasagna on the weekend and then having it again for Tuesday dinner and probably Wednesday lunch. I would pre-chop my veggies and have them handy to grab and throw into a stir-fry etc.
If you are new to planning, K.I.S.S., Keep It Super Simple and most of all, find the fun in the connection with your family!