Meal Planning Made Easier {Menu Monday}

Having Regular family meals is one way to make the time we spend together more meaningful. President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “Happy conversation, sharing of the day’s plans and activities, and special teaching moments occur at mealtime because mothers and fathers and children work at it.”
-E. Jeffery Hill

Here are some simple tips that make my menu planning go a little more smoothly...

  1. Get organized!
    1. Decide how often you like to shop, and plan accordingly. I do the bulk of my grocery shopping every-other week, with a trip for milk, bread and fresh veggies somewhere in the middle.
    2. Simplify menu planning by making a list of what you would like to make for your shopping period {I would choose 14 meals}, instead of assigning what meal goes on what day. When I plan for a specific meal on a certain day, I almost never feel like eating that and end up switching for another meal. {See Sample Menu below}
    3. Allow yourself a day off, we eat out (or get take out) once within a two week period, usually on grocery day. Plan easy meals for nights when things get busy, and more complicated or new recipes for weekends or nights that you have more time.
    4. Label your recipes on your menu. There is nothing worse than planning a menu, then not remembering where you found the recipe. I add a “code”—the abbreviation of the title, issue number (if applicable) and page number after menu items that I need a recipe for.
    5. Keep your menus! When you complete a menu save it, then if you just don’t have the time {or inclination} to make a menu that week, you just grab a finished one. Be sure to weed out any recipes you tried that your family didn’t love. Sorting each menu into a seasonal folder also helps you find and rotate menus efficiently.
  1. What to eat?
    1. Plan on a balanced diet. Make sure every meal has protein, vegetables, and grain. Remember, this doesn’t mean you need to make 4 side dishes, one-pot meals easily can pack all this into one serving & don’t be afraid to sneak in a veggie or two…try grating carrots into spaghetti sauce—they’ll never know :) {My plate graphic}
    2. Eat seasonally, locally if possible. It is easy to get almost any vegetable or fruit at any time of the year, in any grocery store, but I still feel it is important to eat as seasonably as possible. Fruits and vegetables in season not only taste better and have better texture (think of grainy, tasteless apples in January) they are higher in nutrients. The fresher the produce, the higher the nutrients. 
    3. To see what is in season now, visit Epicurious for an interactive Peak Season Map.
    4. When planning your menu, think seasonally in terms of how & what you are cooking {not just produce}. Think of it how you would dress for the season…in the summer, cool, light and fresh. In the winter warm, cozy, comforting.
    5. Simplify. In one week we eat one night of Mexican, Italian, and breakfast for dinner, which means I plan two meals for each cuisine, so that’s 6 nights of easy planning—and half my menu. I add new recipe or two to try out, and then the remaining items are family favorites.
    6. Breakfast, Lunch and Snacks. Under my dinner menu is a list of available breakfast, lunch and snack options (my kids rarely all eat the same thing at these meals). When an option is gone, it’s crossed out & they choose from the remaining options. This is a good place to get the kids involved more with the planning, and preparing. It’s a lifesaver when kids can put together their own lunch and plan snacks that you can make together as a fun family activity.
  1. Shopping Lists.
    1. Compile lists while you make your menu…combine and conquer!
    2. Know the layout of your store and your shopping habits. If you start with veggies, move to dry goods and finish up with meat—write your list that way.
    3. I use a pre-printed shopping list. I listed all the items that I usually buy, or like to have on hand. It’s great to hang on the fridge, and when you run out of something, just highlight it. I find it’s easier to go through the list and highlight as I am menu planning then to write a list out & then organize it the way I like it. {See my shopping list below}

      One of my menus {yes, from summer, but still a good example...click to see a larger version}...

      A printable of my shopping list for you to use {I tri-fold mine}:

Check back every week for {Menu Monday}  
I will be sharing my menu {& recipes} with you.

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