When the clock approaches 5:00 p.m., do you start worrying about what to have for dinner? Are you tired of using fast food as the answer? Then you need to give menu planning a try! With menu planning you know what your meals will look like and what you need to buy. That makes grocery shopping quicker and cuts down on unplanned trips to buy one or two items. And with a grocery list in hand, it’s easier to resist impulse purchases.
Benefits of Menu Planning
When you truly give menu planning a try, you will find that it actually saves time, money and simplifies your life:
- Save time: you can select easy recipes that don’t require a lot of prep work. And you will have everything you need for the meal you want to prepare, which means you won’t have to run to the store for missing items.
- Save money: planning allows you to look for sales in the grocery store ads, which you can plan your meals around.In addition, you will go to the store less frequently.
- Eat healthier: you have more control over the ingredients in your meals, and planning allows you to add healthy options that you might not do if you were in a hurry.
- Add variety to your meals: When you plan ahead, you can get out of the recipe rut you’ve been in and actually take the time to check out new recipes.
- Manage your stress: menu planning eliminates the frustration that can occur when your family is hungry and you have no idea what to make for dinner.
Menu planning doesn’t have to be complicated. To get started, jot down some of your favorite meals. For inspiration, look through cookbooks or check out recipe websites. You can even find sample menus and menu-planning apps online.
Plan a week of meals at a time. Be sure to include side dishes as well as entrees and some healthy desserts, too. When you have your menu plan filled in, create a shopping list of the ingredients you’ll need. Some things to consider as you think about menu options:
- Look for sales: what’s on sale this week at the supermarket?
- Shop your pantry: that can of beans in the back of the cabinet could be the starting point for any number of healthy meals.
- Think seasonal: what fresh produce is available this time of year?
- Keep it simple: use recipes that can be made ahead of time and reheated for a meal during the week.
- Mix things up: keep the menu interesting by planning some meatless meals or substituting a breakfast for a dinner. Alternate new recipes with familiar ones.
- Ask for ideas: your family may want to throw in some of their favorites.
- Picture the plate: as you plan each meal, keep in mind that vegetables and fruits should cover half your plate, lean protein should cover a quarter, and the rest of your plate should be grains, preferably whole grains.
- Recycle your menus. Don’t throw away your menu plan at the end of the week. Instead, hold on to it and reuse it later.
- Be flexible. Your menu isn’t written in stone. Feel free to swap things around. Or designate one night as “cook’s choice” and use that night to clear out the refrigerator by making a casserole, stir-fry or other mix-and-match meal.
Making a meal plan may seem daunting at first, but stick with it and you’ll be a pro in no time! The benefits are endless and you’ll be able to bask in the satisfaction of a job well done.