Menu-Planning Tips

With school and activities schedules, parents everywhere need to try to incorporate some balance in their lives. Evenings are busy with homework and after-school activities, which means in order to have time for dinner as a family, some advanced planning needs to take place.

Planning menus each week is one way to help ensure dinner at home wins over a quick trip through the drive-through. Below are five tips to help you achieve menu-planning success.

Prep in Bulk
Pick one day during the week to be a heavy prep day. Once you’ve chosen the week’s recipes, look through them to see what can be done in advance. Chop vegetables, brown the ground beef, shred cheese, etc. The more prep done in advance, the easier the week will flow.

Choose Consistent Theme Nights
If each week involves specific themes, like Taco Tuesday, Homemade Pizza Friday and Meatless Monday, for example, it will help you zero in on recipes for those specific days so you aren’t too overwhelmed with choices. Themes also make it fun for kids to get involved. Ask them if there are certain themes they’d like during the week, and I bet you’ll get some fun, creative ideas that are easy to implement.

Double Up and Freeze
Choose recipes that can be doubled, then freeze the second portion to have a meal on hand for another night. You never know when you might have an extremely hectic week. Keeping food handy that is ready to pop in the oven directly from the freezer can be an absolute lifesaver at times!

Have a Leftover or “Clean out the Fridge/Freezer” Day
If you are anything like me, you tend to make too much food for dinnertime and always end up with leftovers. Use this to your advantage. Have one day during the week be a leftover day. Look through the fridge and see what might work.

Do you have leftover rice? Make chicken fried rice for dinner. How about leftover chicken breast? Dice it up and put it in soup, or add it to a bed of lettuce greens. See what you can salvage so you aren’t wasting leftover food. You’ll save time and money by doing this once a week.

Get Your Kids Involved
If they are old enough, allow kids to help plan a meal one night a week. That gives you a break and will also help them understand the important life skill of menu planning and cooking!

Planning a weekly menu will help ensure that family mealtime doesn’t get shoved under the rug and forgotten about when schedules get busy. It takes a little time up front, but is worth the effort.

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