I'm getting spoiled! We're hosting our daughter Candice, son-in-law Micah, and granddog Champ for three weeks as they transition from the house they sold to their new place. How nice to come home to the sight and aroma of dinner prepared! Micah and Candice are a great cooking team. If you don't have the luxury of live-in help, you might be dreading the question, "What's for dinner?!?"
Part of my motivation for posting our dinner menu when my kids were growing up was sparing myself from having to hear sighs and moans when answering that question. It's kind of like a tree falling in the forest. If you're not there to hear it, it doesn't matter if it made a sound or not.
There were, of course, other incentives for meal planning such as no 4 o'clock panic, eating healthier, and spending less money.
Today's Timely Tips will give you the tools you need to gain control of your meal planning and enjoy the dinner hour in a whole new way!
TIMELY TIPS - MEAL PLANNING 101
- Create a routine. Schedule a time, say Sunday evenings, once every other week to sit down and plan your menu. That gives you two Sundays off, and two weeks of planned meals.
- Gather your cookbooks, computer, forms (see #3), and lists.
- Use a free printable form to record what's for dinner like this the one offered by Picklebums (isn't that a fun name?) - Menu Planner. I use the two-week, dinner only planner. For more free printable options check out: 15 free printable menu planners.
- Try creating traditions to simplify planning and build family bonds. Maybe Monday is taco night and Friday pizza night. Have each family member record their favorite dinner and then serve it whenever he or she has an accomplishment or special occasion to celebrate.
- As you plan your menu consider your schedule for the week and choose crockpot recipes, left-over nights, and less-prep meal ideas for the days you'll be coming home late. Check recipe websites like AllRecipes.com or FoodNetwork.com for fast healthy recipes, BBQ, and crockpot ideas.
- If you'd rather bi-pass the decision about what to make, FoodOnTheTable.com will decide for you and send you a weekly meal plan based on your family's preferences.
- Use the "cook once, eat twice" method by preparing enough for two meals and freezing one. Be sure to keep a list of freezer items (chicken you cooked ahead, casseroles, meat you bought on sale, etc.) so you don't forget about them.
- Once you've set your menu, check your stock of supplies and create a list of what you need for those two weeks of meals. This will eliminate extra trips to the store and save time and gas. Set a grocery shopping day. I use the GroceryIQ.com app to store my grocery list on my phone so it's always with me.
- If preparing meals at home is new to you, try easing into it with a trip to Dinner My Way where they help you prepare, or prepare for you "home cooked" meals.
- Cozi.com is a one-stop free website and app where you can create your dinner plans, get recipe ideas, store your grocery list and much more!
BONUS TIP: If there's more than one eating, there should be more than one participating in the dinner-time process. Designate jobs such as setting/clearing the table, putting away left-overs, loading the dishwasher and washing pots and pans so that the workload is more evenly distributed.
For most of us, it's challenging to get a good meal on the table every night. For those in crisis (health issues, the loss of a loved one), or even good times like bringing home a new baby, meal planning can be overwhelming.
TakeThemAMeal.com is a website that simplifies meal coordination for someone in need. Friends and family can sign up for a specific day, see what others are bringing, and get the specifics about delivery, food allergies/preferences, etc. They even provide recipe ideas and a dinner order/delivery service, if needed!
Their motto is: For those times in life when filling their table will warm their hearts. I encourage you to saveTakeThemA Meal.com in your website favorites for a time when you can provide this meaningful service to someone in need.
"Learn to do common things uncommonly well; we must always keep in mind that anything that helps fill the dinner pail is valuable."
-George Washington Carver