Planning Meals for a Family
Taking the time to plan basic simple meals for the week saves time, money, and stress.
In fact, preparing a simple meal at home takes about the same amount of time as driving to a fast-food restaurant or ordering a pizza. Learning how to plan menus may save more money on your food budget than any other skill, allowing you to buy other necessities with the money saved.
Eating Meals at Home Has Benefits
Many of today’s children and adults are part of a generation that has grown up in restaurants and fast-food eateries. Preparing and eating meals at home is a better choice for many reasons.
- It is usually healthier and tastes better because the cook has control over the ingredients in meals cooked at home.
- It helps to control the amounts of food served, or the portion sizes.
- It allows for more family time.
- Teens and children can learn to prepare and serve meals.
- It is generally cheaper than eating out.
Meal Planning Saves Time, Money & Stress
Taking the time to plan basic simple meals for the week saves time, money, and stress. In fact, preparing a simple meal at home takes about the same amount of time as driving to a fast-food restaurant or ordering a pizza.
Learning how to plan menus may save more money on your food budget than any other skill, allowing you to buy other necessities with the money saved. Here are some benefits of having a menu plan.
- It saves trips to the grocery store.
- You only buy what you need.
- It relieves the stress of wondering what to cook for dinner at the last minute.
- No time and energy are wasted frantically searching through the pantry for a certain food.
- It provides a better variety of meal choices, and the same foods aren’t served too often.
- There is no waiting while something thaws.
- Leftovers are used up before they spoil.
Steps to Meal Planning
Making a meal plan is easier than most people think. Although it takes a little time upfront, it can save time in the long run. Once you get used to it, making a weekly meal plan will seem easy. All it takes is a few easy steps.
- Make a food budget and determine how often you will shop, preferably no more than once a week.
- Note your family’s schedule, which meals and snacks will be prepared at home or eaten away from home, and how many people will be eating each meal. This allows you to buy the right amount of food.
- Write a list of the foods your family likes to eat and keep it taped inside the kitchen cabinet. When you try a new recipe that everyone likes, add it to the list.
- Make enough menus for about a two-week cycle. Plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, or five to six “mini-meals” per day. Next to each meal, write the ingredients that you need to prepare it.
- Inventory the foods you have on hand and what you need to buy. Know what foods are in the refrigerator and freezer, cupboards, cabinets, and pantry. Plan to use these foods in your menus to save money at the store.
- Keep a grocery list in the kitchen where you can see it. As you run out of staple food items during the week, add them to the list.
- Check grocery store ads for sale items that you can use in your menus.
- Write a weekly meal plan. Start with a simple plan that includes your family’s main meal of the day. When you feel comfortable with that, add in one meal at a time until you work up to a weekly plan. It should include all daily meals plus snacks, even those eaten away from home.
A Simple Meal Plan
Here is an example of a simple meal plan or menu writing system to help you get started.
- Sunday: Lunch at Grandmother’s House
- Monday: Meatless Monday
- Tuesday: Dinner in a Crock-Pot
- Wednesday: Soup & Sandwich
- Thursday: Pasta Night
- Friday: From the Grill
- Saturday: Leftovers
The main dish, which is the base around which the rest of the menu is planned, should provide a serving of protein (e.g., lean meat, some beans, or a low-fat dairy product). Choose side dishes that go well with the main dish and contain plenty of raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, and whole grains (e.g., bread, pasta, rice, or cereal). Serve milk and another hot or cold beverage. A dessert, such as fresh fruit, yogurt, or pudding, is optional.
Include at least one “planned-over” meal per week to use leftover food from another meal.
When you serve your family members’ favorite foods, you make meals more enjoyable and avoid waste. Most cooks rely on a core of about 10 favorite recipes for family meals. These should be nutritious, tasty, easy to make, and quick to prepare and cook.
Collect several low-cost, nutritious recipes for main dishes to put in your rotation, and serve them often. Include a variety of lean beef, poultry, and fish and at least one meatless dish. Find recipes for fruits and vegetables that the family likes, even the child who is a picky eater. Assemble the recipes in a recipe file or box, or put them in a loose-leaf notebook.
Read the full article for more meal planning tips, and ideas to add variety.Read Full Article