Menu Planning for the Busy Family
one of the biggest organizational challenges have is the age old question. What’s for dinner? With crazy busy schedules, we all know there are days when you simply don’t have time to cook or the dinner hour snuck up upon you catching you unaware and you end up going through the drive – thru or order carry out.
There is a simple solution for this called menu planning. Let’s first look at all the benefits of menu planning and then explore simple steps you can take to make it easier.
Benefits of Menu Planning:
Saves you time, energy and headaches
Having taken the time to plan you avoid going through the drive –thru
Your meals are healthier and more balanced.
You know what to take out the night before to defrost
You always have the ingredients on hand, avoiding trips to the grocery store in the middle of the week. Huge money saver there.
Your family knows what meals are coming up and will stop asking you what’s for dinner. Simple refer them to the posted menu on the fridge.
It will increase and improve your family time. When you plan ahead it is a lot easier to get the kids involved in helping you cook. Which in turn also teaches them valuable life skills.
Initially when you first begin you will need to do some prep work before you even get to the menu planning part. However after that is done and you have been menu planning for a while you will wonder how you ever survived with out it.
Here are some helpful tips and tricks:
Don’t over complicate the process. (Think simple meals)
Take inventory of what you already have in your freezer, pantry and fridge.
Make sure to throw out what is expired and organize the rest.
Start a list of staple items you may need to get next time you go grocery shopping.
Plan your meals according to your weekly schedule.
On days when you know you simple will not have time to cook because you
have a million things to do during the day and the kids have extra curricular
Activities after school those are the days where you plan to eat leftovers (a lot
healthier and cheaper than the drive-thru)
When you cook double and triple the recipe so you can freeze the extra. Another huge time save for those busy days.
When planning your meals don’t forget to plan for the lunches the kids take to school. No more last minute grocery trips the night before because you don’t have enough snacks, juice boxes etc.
Make sure to plan around the weekly sales ads and utilize coupons. Stock up on items you use often. Just make sure to rotate your freezer and pantry stock and add the items to your inventory sheet.
Start a folder or binder where you keep your menus from previous weeks. After a while you will have a good stock pile and all you need to do is rotate the various menus.
I hope some of these tips are helpful to get you started with menu planning. Next time we will explore the art of grocery shopping and ways to make it more efficient and less time consuming
A few of my basic helpful hints to make meal prep go a little smoother
Over the years, I have learned a few helpful hints in the kitchen, not only to save time but a whole bunch of energy also.
Have you ever sat down to the dinner table and felt almost too tired to eat because you feel as if you have walked 10 miles in your kitchen just to prepare a meal for your family? I have, so I have come up with a few tips to help you keep from unnecessarily and aimlessly walking up and down in your kitchen.
here are some things I like to do in my kitchen before I start to cook a meal. These tips can help make meal prep simple, easy and save a lot of time and energy in the long run.
If there are dishes in the sink, I like to clean all of them, dry them off and put them away. This allows me to start fresh and with a clean slate. This avoids me having to stop what I’m doing to clean a dish that I need during cooking, which is simply an energy zapper for me
Next, I empty the trash or I make sure there is enough room in the trash to fill with packaging or scrapes from the meal I am preparing (nothing worse than throwing used items into an over flowing trash can)
I have a little prep bowl that i use to put all of my kitchen scrapes in when i’m prepping fruits or veggies. This assists in minimizing many trips to my trash as my trash can is not under my sink or near and multiple trips to the trash can become tiresome. The little prep bowl makes it easy to compost everything or just simply make one trip to the trash and dump it all at once.
I always wear one of my little aprons that I made so that my clothes don’t get splattered on or stained in the process. I made most of my aprons with either one or two little pockets for my cell phone and for my little bible. When I’m waiting for the water to boil for the veggies or the quinoa I simply take a moment to read a small excerpt from God’s refreshing word. From time to time, even if it’s one line I have my little devotional or bible that I can just take a short break and enjoy a moment with God. I also like to have a clean white towel on the waist of my apron so that I can wipe my hands, or wipe off something really quick…..again, this saves me time and energy instead of having to walk up and down going to get a towel just to wipe your hands. Then I just simply toss it in the washer when I’m done.
One of my biggest hints is to “CLEAN AS YOU GO” this way dishes don’t pile up on you and by the time you serve your meal there is already a big stack of dishes waiting for you. I like to do this because a whole new set of dishes and pots are arriving after you eat and if you already have a big stack of dishes waiting for you, it can become simply exhausting.
If you have kids, this is a great way to have them get involved. Have your kids or someone else, wash the dishes in the sink after you cook and perhaps another child or person wash up the dishes after supper to break up the task a little.
Try to look at your ingredients list before you start and be sure you have what you need in order to prepare the desired dish. This can be so frustrating if you haven’t checked your pantry for everything you need to cook a dish and you get to an ingredient you forgot to purchase at the store. I like to take everything out of my pantry or refrigerator that I need to cook, including the spices and veggies etc. so that I’m not walking up and down all over my kitchen, hence making tired before I even sit down to eat.
Lastly, K.I.S.S (keep it simple sweetheart) try to keep recipes as simple & as easy as possible and always remember to have FUN in the kitchen. This is the hub of the home. I like to put on a little worship music when I’m in the kitchen or sometimes a little Caribbean soca and my son and I like to dance in the kitchen – A LOT!!!!!
I pray that one day, one of my son’s favorite memories would be in the kitchen dancing, creating and simply cooking alongside me. As a girl in the islands, this just happens to be one of his favorite child hood memories. One of my favorite memories will always be the busyness of my our kitchen, the smells and the joy of cooking simple fresh meals with one or both of my parents. Weather, I was washing dishes standing on a stool to stir a pot or out back pickling limes off our lime tree for a dish my Mama was cooking. I have many fond memories not only resonating around the supper table but in the kitchen as well. So, go ahead, grab your kids, your husband or just yourself and God & dance up a storm whilst the pot is slowly simmering and try to enjoy the entire process of cooking from beginning to end.
Simple Healthy & Habits for Families
As the New Year begins, many families try to begin with a clean slate and resolve to create healthier habits. The holidays are often a time when unhealthy habits are created by indulging in sugary treats and fattening foods and drinks, which are plentiful between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Everyone can benefit from a fresh start in the New Year whether the goal is to lose weight, improve health, or just to live a healthy lifestyle. Here are the top eight ways to create healthier family habits in the New Year.
Make it a group effort: Involve everyone in the healthy New Year plan to prevent “a new sherriff in town” scenario. Sit down as a family, decide which foods need to be banned from the house, and establish which healthy foods would be suitable alternatives. Clean out the refrigerator and pantry together as a team effort, eliminating sugar laden and processed foods. Go to the grocery store as a family to choose fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to restock the kitchen with the agreed upon healthy choices.
Create a meal plan: All successful endeavors begin with a carefully formulated plan. Decide ahead of time what type of healthy meals will work for your family, and request meal suggestions from everyone. Consider having a regular routine, such as Sunday leftovers on Monday, Taco Tuesdays, crock-pot Wednesdays, stir-fry Thursdays, etc. Be sure to plan for snacks as well, such as fruit and veggies at predetermined times like after school or in the afternoons on weekends.
Cook more often: By making meals at home, it’s possible to choose the leanest cuts of meat and fresh vegetables. Restaurants often use too much salt and sugar and rely on canned and processed foods, which have a negative impact on health. Kids are more likely to eat foods that they have had an opportunity to choose and prepare, so include everyone in the meal preparation.
Start each day with breakfast: Eating breakfast every day is important for many health reasons. Many studies have shown benefits to eating a morning meal, such as better mental performance, eating less over the course of the day, and improved weight control. If time is an issue, make breakfast simple with a delicious protein shake, or a serving of fruit and a protein source such as eggs or nuts.
Watch portion sizes: A healthy plate should be made up primarily of salad, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. The smallest portion should be a lean protein choice, which should be around three ounces. Experiment with using smaller plates and eating the healthiest foods at a meal first.
Eat together: Sitting down to dinner as a family is an important way to model healthy eating behaviors to children. Family meals are an opportunity to bond and connect.
Include exercise: Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Be sure to include an exercise plan into your family health plan. Suggestions include daily walks together, bike riding if the weather allows, or possibly doing a workout class on the television.
Keep everyone motivated: Rewards are a powerful source of motivation, so choose a reward that everyone will look forward to with excitement. Choose a few small rewards that can be earned on a more frequent basis, such as a family trip to the movies, iTunes cards, or an activity such as bowling. A more substantial reward such as a weekend trip or a family health club membership should be determined to keep everyone inspired for a six to eight week time period, which is long enough to create healthy habits.
There may be some resistance initially to revamping unhealthy habits. By including everyone in the decision, planning, and execution of a healthier routine, it will be more likely to have cooperation from everyone. Remember to create a plan and involve the kids in creating menus and meal plans. Fun rewards will keep everyone motivated and inspired to have a healthy New Year.
Family Meal Planning
Planning family meals can be one of the most stressful times in any parent’s day. Use these tips and ideas to help make the planning easier, so that your family can have healthy family meals without the stress.
Set aside time every week to plan your family meals and make a grocery list. Add the time you need for meal planning to your daily routines and schedule so that it becomes a regular habit and a priority.
Begin by planning family dinners rather than trying to plan every meal so that you don’t become overwhelmed. Once you have a good system down for planning family dinners, you can work on planning breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
Save your meal plans so that you can easily rotate them and don’t have to spend a lot of time recreating them.
Avoid complaints and fussiness from the kids by including them in the family meal discussion. By giving them a voice in what meals on are on the menu, they are more likely to eat what is prepared.
If you have picky eaters, let them help you prepare the meals. Kids are much more likely to eat their dinner if they can see what goes into making the meal.
Don’t plan meals that require a lot of prep work for busy days. Save meals with a lot of prep for either weekends or days in which you don’t have a lot of events.
If time is tight during the evenings, try doing some prep work either in the mornings or on the weekends. Some things that can be done in advanced include cleaning and washing vegetables, marinating meats, and mixing sauces.
Make clean up easier by teaching kids to rinse and load their own dishes in the dishwasher.
Give chores to your kids to help with meal preparation. Good chores for kids include setting the table, clearing the table, filling beverage glasses, loading or unloading the dishwasher, cleaning vegetables, or setting out condiments.
Make sure you have everything you need for the family meals in your cupboards by using a grocery list.
Keep your grocery lists easily accessible so that items can be easily added.
Teach your family to add items to the grocery list.
Schedule grocery shopping days on your calendar or in your planner.