I know I am not alone when I say I am both intrigued and aggravated by the bloggers who share their monthly meal plans. In theory, the meals are amazingly planned out with a shopping list and the added bonus of a nutritional chart. However, when I start looking at some of these recipes, I realize that my family of picky eaters will only eat half of the dinners suggested. So I decided to come up with a meal plan that my family would actually eat. Here are my suggestions to plan a month of easy, nutritious meals.
1. Start by making a list of your family’s go-to meals. How many times do you make them each month? For my family, I found I make eight family favorites two times a month, which satisfies 16 days. Next, make a list of meals that you typically make only once a month like a ham, roast, or something that takes several hours to cook. Then, add in simple, quick meals that can be cooked in 15 minutes, like Paninis or omelettes. Finally, choose a few crock-pot meals or ‘bag and dump’ dinners your family enjoys.
2. Create a ‘calendar’on your table or countertop using post-it notes. Write each dinner on a separate post-it note and start putting them in order to create a monthly calendar of meals. As you put your days together, be realistic about your family’s schedule. If you will be busy with another obligation in an afternoon from 3 to 6, don’t plan to start a dinner that takes hours to prepare. When you lay out your calendar, plan meals with similar ingredients in the same week to avoid waste. For example, if two recipes use half a can of tomato paste, put those meals next to each other on the calendar.
3. Make a shopping list for the month. Shop for all non-perishable items at one time, and shop weekly for fresh produce or dairy. Meat can be purchased and frozen or purchased fresh weekly. As you see a pattern forming for your staples, pick up a few extra ones at the store. With the unpredictable schedules of my teenagers and their friends, I like to keep extra items like frozen burgers or extra packages of rice or pasta to supplement a meal if my teens’ friends stay for dinner.
4. Leave some flexibility in your schedule. If you know that an upcoming evening will be too hectic to cook, plan a leftover night by making a double batch the night before. If your child has karate lessons that end at 6 and the dojo is right next to a take-out Chinese place, plan that into your menu. Also, if there is a great sale going on at the store one week, feel free to adjust your plan. For example, this summer the cost of eggs dropped drastically in my area. As a result, we had breakfast for dinner a few nights in place of our regularly planned meals.
5. Consider cooking a week of meals in one night. While I have yet to master this, many busy parents spend one long afternoon chopping, mixing, and cooking family dinners for the whole week. It is a great timesaver to make dinner(s) when you have the time instead of during the busy after-school rush. You can put more than one kind of meat on the grill, chop all veggies for the week’s menu, or make soups, casseroles, and sauces to freeze for later.
With dinner plans already taken care of, you will now have time to help with homework, play a game with the kids, or just put your feet up and relax.
17 Things You Can Make With Rotisserie Chicken
Most every grocery store has a grab-and-go rotisserie chicken area. Most offer side options and bread to complete the meal. While this is another alternative to carry-out food, you can use the rotisserie chicken as a way to speed up the ‘home-cooked’ meal at your house.
Try these options:
Pam is a freelance writer, and a mother of three. When she isn’t running a carpool or supporting her kids on the field and on stage, she looks forward to cooking meals her family enjoys.
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