Fall Into Planning: Weekly Menu

As the new school year approaches, menu planning will become more important.

During the summer it is easier since you can have the kids help with the shopping, or they sleep over at friends more often, or may even go away for a period of time. There is no place better to start back down that road than by reminding yourself of the 80/20 rule: focus on the 20% that is important. In this case, that means trying to get a good meal on the table as often as is convenient without worrying that every night has to be some unique creation.

For instance, when you grab your Menu Planner, don’t pull a card from every different section. Pick a couple of themes and plan multiple meals around them. For instance, grab two meals that use chicken and two that use mushrooms. That way you can buy bigger portions of those items, which usually means a savings in money and time since you go fewer places in the store.

Alicia on ‘Good Back-ups’

‘Life is not perfect and that includes dinner. To keep stress low when you are running late, or the dinner you planned falls apart, be ready to make a smart substitution. Instead of ordering pizza—which has its place in family menu planning—or fast food, have menus from places like Subway or Boston Market handy. Places like these are long on food cooked on the premises, offer a lot of healthy choices, and almost nothing is fried.’

Sarah on ‘Just Desserts’

‘Perhaps the most challenging part of meal planning is dessert. Even if you could come home and bake something, your family is going to eat baked goods all the time. And while cake and cookies have their place, fruity desserts should be prominent. Frozen fruit is every bit as healthy as fresh and easier to work with. If you buy one large bag of frozen berries, you can get a variety of healthy desserts. Buy a pre-made pie shell and you have everything you need for a berry pie—while you might need to thaw the berries first (depending on the recipe you use) it is still just putting berries into a shell and baking. Or you can get some clotted cream and put it right over frozen berries—cold, healthy, and delicious.’

Here a few tips to help you get a meal on the table without increasing stress.

#1. To Market To Market
Make a part of every weekend a trip to the local farmer’s market. You have to shop anyway and this turns a part of your shopping into a fun outing for the family. Instead of going into a crowded store with everyone trying to fit down narrow aisles, the family can stroll down a street filled with vendors of all varieties. The sights, sounds and smells of fresh produce will also help instill a love for organic produce in your young ones.

#2. Playing Favorites
This is your dinner too so don’t be afraid to make you favorites as often as you wish. You work all day and take care of your family at night and on the weekends—who needs comfort foods more than you? The best part is what happens if/when your kids complain. You tell them that if they want greater variety, they can start doing some of the cooking—or at least do some menu planning and shopping. They learn to an important skill and you do less work—a classic win-win.

#3. Going Greens
When leftover night(s) come, turn them into salads. Salads are like soups: there are no wrong ingredients. Let’s say you have leftover steak and bell peppers. Cut the steak and peppers into strips and throw the whole thing over romaine or baby greens et viola: a salad for dinner. The fact is that most leftovers can be put over lettuce and, if you lay off the fatty dressings, become a healthier version of the original meal.