As an early riser with a packed day, my mental functioning and decision-making start to wane around 5:00 pm. So if I didn’t have a plan in place for dinner, I’d end up spending an inordinate amount of time trying to think of what to make, especially if I didn’t have all of my ingredients on hand. One of the habits I developed when my kids were little was to commit to a meal plan strategy so that I could (more often than not) make healthy, varied, sit-down meals that we could all enjoy as a family with as little stress as possible! The added benefit is that my kids often help in the prep stage which makes them more inclined to eat what is served.
If you’re thinking, I JUST DON’T HAVE TIME! I challenge you to give it a try for a month. You’ll be amazed at how much money you save (less take-out and wasted food), how much less stressful dinner prep time is and, seriously, the incredible amount of time you save. Ever so often (when I’m feeling rebellious) I’ll decide to just ‘wing it’ for the week and by 5:00 Tuesday, I’m regretting it.
So here’s my strategy:
- Set aside 15 minutes at the beginning of the week (I do Sundays) to pull recipes/decide meals. (I usually pick a pasta dish, a chicken dish, a crockpot meal, etc). I actually set my timer so that I don’t get sidetracked trying to plan the perfect menu.
- Make a grocery list that includes your main dish ingredients plus items for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
- Hit the store and stick to your list! You’ve already made the necessary decisions so shopping can be quicker and less expensive.
- When chow time rolls around, bask in the feeling that whichever recipe you feel inclined to make that night is set to go! So light a candle, gather your helpers (if they are indeed helpful!) and enjoy some yummy family time.
If you have a winning approach to meal planning, we’d love to hear about it!
By Karen McNamara