Successful meal planning

When planning meals for you and your family, follow these simple tips to make it easier and more successful!

Everyone has seen the research on the importance of eating meals at home, both for health and child development reasons. This may be easier said than done. Families have multiple demands on their time: Work schedules, school schedules, children’s activities, parental responsibilities, etc. Have you ever started the week on track with meals, but then you get to Wednesday or Thursday and run out of ideas, motivation, time or energy? Planning for these times and having a back-up plan can save the day!

Michigan State University Extension says that the key is to be realistic and take into account your family’s needs; start small. Here are a few meal planning tips to help throughout the week:

  • Plan one week at a time.
  • Before you head out to do your shopping, check to see what you have on hand and can use.
  • Utilize family input. For example, asking your kids what they want for lunches and snacks will take the guess work out of it for you. It also limits complaints later on (“there’s nothing to eat”).
  • When making your weekly menu, take into consideration breakfast, lunches and snacks.
  • Be realistic about your budget, time and family preferences. There are so many tasty and healthy recipes available online that it can be tempting to want to try them all. If you know you have a busy week coming approaching, think twice before trying a new recipe. If you are on a limited income, choose simple recipes with ingredients that are in season, on sale or that you have on hand. Save new recipes to try when you have more time, maybe on a weekend night.
  • Always have a couple back-up meals that are quick and easy to prepare for those nights when schedules do not coordinate or you do not feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Soups, salads and sandwiches are always quick and easy and can be made healthfully.
  • Once you have your week’s menu laid out, post it on the fridge to hold everyone accountable. Eliminate standing in front of the freezer, refrigerator or pantry asking yourself “what should I make for dinner?”

The list could go on and on, but the most important part is to find what works best for your schedule and your family so that you stick with it. Once you find a system that works for you, you will not regret the money saved or the quality time spent with family around the table!

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