Monday, May 4, 2015

Simple Tip for Feeding the Family: Make a Plan, Then Repeat It!

I'm sure you hear all over blog-land about how meal planning makes cooking for a family easier and how it can keep your grocery budget in check and how you will eat healthier if you meal plan...but there is one problem with meal planning -- you have to do it!  Over and over and over again!

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I like meal planning.  I think it is necessary to keep your family well-fed and to reduce stress for you (and your grocery budget).  But I didn't like doing it every week.  Here is what I did:

1. Make a list of all meals that your family likes (and that you like to cook).  For this list, think just about your family's main meal (supper for us).

Don't think too hard about this, you can add to the list later.  Don't add meals to this list that your family likes but that take a long time to prepare or that are complicated.  If you are following Trim Healthy Mama make a notation of what each meal is (S or E).  Are there any meals you want to repeat each week?  Put a star by them.  We have pizza each well as a couple other things!

2. Organize your list into categories that make sense to you.

Beef, chicken, fish, breakfast for supper, beans, Italian, Mexican, etc

3. How many meals do you have in each category? 

Is there a common number between the groups?  I had four meals in most of my categories...some only two.  This will be how many weeks of menus you are going to make.

4. Choose a theme for each day from the categories you selected.

My categories are: Monday=beef, Tuesday=beans, Wednesday=breakfast for supper, Thursday=chicken, Friday=fish, Saturday=pizza, and Sunday=eggs.

5. Place each meal on the menu plan according to the categories you selected.

How many complete weeks do you have?  I had two complete weeks.  How many mostly complete weeks do you have?  I had two more mostly complete weeks.

6. Congratulations!  You now have (hopefully) a month (or more) of menus planned!

Now just start following your menu plan and when you get to the end, repeat!  Every three or four weeks is not too often to repeat a won't even notice!  If you have any gaps in you menu, leave the space blank; you will probably think of a meal you forgot to list or you can repeat one in the same category.  If you have extra meals for some categories list them after your menu.  Then you can switch them out with another when you desire.

We are in the middle of our third month of using this menu plan and I'm loving it!  It is all planned for me.  Most of the ingredients repeat so I always have things on hand or a shopping list ready.  We are a nightshade-free family, so our menu options are probably a bit more limited than yours:

Meat Loaf (S)
Black Bean Tacos (E)
Oven Puff Pancake (S)
Chicken Wild Rice Soup (E)
Salmon Patties (S)
Pizza (S)
Eggs (S)
Cheeseburger Soup (S)
Black Beans & Rice (E)
Oven Puff Pancake (S)
Chicken Alfredo (S)
Tuna Melts (S)
Pizza (S)
Eggs (S)
Meat Loaf (S)
Black Bean Tacos (E)
Oven Puff Pancake (S)
Coconut Curry Chicken (S or E)
Mac & Cheese with Tuna (S)
Pizza (S)
Eggs (S)
Beef Stroganoff or Biscuits & Gravy (S)
Nightshade-Free Chili (E)
Oven Puff Pancake (S)
Chicken & Rice (E)
Salmon Scampi (S)
Pizza (S)
Eggs (S)
More Options
Turkey Gyros (E)
Quinoa & Black Beans (E)
Waffles & Pancakes (E)
Coconut Fried Chicken (S)
Tuna Salad (S)
Egg Salad (S)
Waffles & Pancakes (E)

Chicken & Gravy with Millet (S)

Chicken Ranch Wraps (S)

You can use the same steps to make a plan for breakfast, lunch and snacks too if that would be helpful for you.  Most people repeat breakfast and lunch meals much more frequently so you might only plan a week or two to put on repeat.  We are quite boring!  We each some form of oatmeal or toast (the kids) every morning for breakfast.  Tony takes the exact same lunch to work each day.  The kids choose between the same few options for lunch each day (cheesy bread/grilled cheese, pb&j, eggs, leftovers).  I usually have eggs for leftovers for lunch.  If there is a day that your whole family will be home for more than one meal, choose a meal from your "more options" to make (this happens for us on Saturdays and Sundays).

Feel free to make changes to this menu plan as the needs arise: need to a meal to another day for this week?  Do it!  Need to make a permanent category change?  Do it!  Don't like soup in the summer?  Change it!  Tony's work schedule changes in the summer, so we plan to take him supper one or two days a week, so I will need to arrange my menu plan so the days we take him meals they are meals that transport easily.

Do you think this way of menu planning will work for you?

Linking to the Modest Mom blog.


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