Dinner is a great time for families to get together and discuss their day. It can also be a hectic meal for busy moms who are just getting off of work or who like myself, have been busy with homeschooling, housework, or other activities all day. If you are a busy mom or you know a busy mom, here are some menu planning tips to help make getting dinner on the table a little easier.
1. Schedule your meals in advance. I can usually only manage to schedule my family’s meals a week ahead of time, but I know of many moms who plan a month ahead. Either way, scheduling your meals ahead of time is one of the most important planning tips. Knowing what you are going to eat in advance will help dinner time run smoother. It can also help keep your budget on track because you won’t end up ordering out as much. Try to choose a day each week to work on the upcoming week’s meals.2. Look for bargains. Clip coupons and check advertising circulars to decide the best place to shop for your menu items. If one ingredient is common in many of your meals, or if you have a large family like I do, consider buying in bulk to save money. Be sure to check your grocer’s coupon policies because many stores use a rewards card and some even have double or triple coupon days when you can save even more.
3. Search online. After a while your family will get tired of chicken and rice every Thursday. It is easy to get into a menu rut sometimes. Use the Internet to search for new and exciting recipes. I recently came across a family friendly, weekly menu planner service called Dine Without Whine. It is a great resource to help keep dinner interesting and simple. You can also try putting a new twist on old recipes for a new taste.
4. Have a leftover night. After preparing meals for five or six days, there is bound to be some food left over. Designate one night to be leftover night and let everyone mix and match for dinner. It saves money by not having to throw away food and it saves mom from having to plan so many meals.
5. Cook your meals in advance. After deciding on a menu plan for the week, go ahead and fix as many meals as you can. Choose a day when the entire family is available to help like Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. Each person can take one meal and fix it for the following week. Once everything has cooled, store it in sealed containers or casserole dishes to be frozen until it is needed.
6. Do prep work in advance. Sometimes cooking your meals in advance isn’t possible. Some foods simply taste better freshly prepared. For those meals try and do as much prep work in advance as you can. Enlist your kids to help chop vegetables, dice cooked meat and mix together dry ingredients.
Meal time doesn’t have to be a headache. With a little planning and teamwork from the family, dinner can be a relaxing meal for everyone.