Life is busy! Let's face it, most days, the last thing we may think about is preparing a healthy dinner for the family. However, eating together as a family – and especially, serving a healthy dinner – is very important.
As a mom of three boys who all live active lives, I’ve found it difficult over the years to find time to sit down together to eat. Meal planning has helped me tremendously. For many years, I’ve created a monthly menu plan. Perhaps that sounds difficult, but if you break it down into easy steps like these below, it doesn't take much time at all.
- Plan for the month; shop for the week. When I have my recipes and cookbooks out, I find it easier to plan the whole month. I also purchase some ingredients for the whole month, especially if they are on sale, but the majority of the grocery shopping is done weekly.
- When you plan your meals, keep in mind what ingredients are seasonal. Those are also less expensive.
- Plan meals that share common ingredients. For instance, if cheese is on sale, buy in bulk, then plan recipes that use cheese.
- Keep your pantry stocked with ingredients you will use often. It will make your meal planning easier, and cuts down on your grocery bill.
- Be sure to plan for busy nights. Especially during the school year, when the kids have practice, games or meetings. Plan an easy slow cooker meal for those nights, and then you can eat as soon as you get home from the game.
- When I'm planning meals, I give each day of the week a specific theme. For instance, Mondays are quick and easy, Tuesdays are make-ahead, Wednesdays are Mexican, Thursdays are Italian, Fridays are kids’ favorites, Saturdays are new recipes and Sundays are comfort food.
- Keep the weather in mind. Even though it changes fast, you can get an idea of what to expect in the week ahead. You certainly don't want to be grilling during a rainstorm, or planning a meal to be cooked in the oven when temperatures are high.
- Keep track of your meal plan and take notes. I like using a household binder to keep track of everything. You can also use Pinterest to gather recipe ideas that you would like to serve your family.
The goal to meal planning is to make your life easier and give you time with your family. So why not include them in the process? Not only are you ensuring that they will like what you serve, but it will also bring the family together to eat something healthier.
Walmart Mom Blogger Liz strives to help you be heroes to your family through easy DIY projects and creative crafts, including hundreds of cupcake designs. When she's not blogging at hoosierhomemade.com, she and her husband, Doug, can be found preparing budget-friendly meals at http://pocketchangegourmet.com/.