Dinner is the last meal of the day and a time when families can get together and discuss their day. But it could also become a hectic meal for busy moms who are just getting off of work or who are just tired at the end of the day.
Here are some menu planning tips to help make dinner meals easy and even fun:
1. Schedule your meals. This is one of the most important planning tips for meals. Knowing what you are going to eat throughout the week means less chance that you will stop off at the closest fast food joint for a convenient, but unhealthy meal. Decide on the last day of the previous week what the menu will be for the following week. Create your shopping list from the list of ingredients. This way you won’t buy what you don’t need.
2. Look for bargains. Clip coupons, read advertising circulars and the like to decide where the best grocery to shop is for your menu items. If one ingredient is a common denominator in many meals, consider buying in bulk to save money. Plan your meals with seasonal food, which is cheaper and healthier.
3. Search online. After a while your family will get tired of the same menu every Thursday. You can get into a menu rut sometimes. Use the Internet to search for new and exciting recipes. Learn to put a twist on old recipes for a new taste.
4. Have a leftover night. After preparing meals for five or six days, there is bound to be some food left over. Get used to mix and match to create tasteful dishes. It saves mom from having to throw away any food.
5. Do preparation work in advance. Enlist your kids to help chop (give them the kitchen shears instead) vegetables, dice cooked meat and mix together dry ingredients. The night of the meal, all that is needed is to add the wet ingredients and bake.
Meal time doesn’t have to be all on mom. The entire family can help with dinner so it is a relaxing meal for everyone.
Need more help meal planning? Check Menu Planning Central for a Free Menu Planning Basics Report and Printable Resources
It’s understandable. Modern families are busy. Both parents work and sometimes get home at different times. Children have activities to go to, and Mom’s got to drive them all over the place.
However, if we just look back to a few decades or at most two generations before us, eating together as a family was a common practice in most families.
Researchers have found many benefits to home-cooked meals. Watch this video to learn about some of them.
Here are 20 reasons I have found to share family meals more often:
1. Families who eat together eat healthier, because home-cooked food is healthier than fast food.
2. Family meals allow busy families to catch up with each other.
3. Young children learn a lot of verbal skills just by eating with their family members. (*very* true for my 4 years old boy)
4. Having family meals more often forces you to end your working day and other obligations in time for dinner.
5. Home cooked are also cheaper than takeout food or eating out.
6. Cooking at home motivates you to be creative with your meal planning and cooking.
7. Children can get involved in cooking meals.
8. Cooking and eating together creates happy childhood memories.
9. Eating together is an opportunity to explore different cuisines.
10. Eating together gives parents a chance to talk about current events from their point of view, injecting their personal values without giving a lecture. (that’s how unschooling kids learn most things!)
11. Eating together helps family members bond and get to know each other better.
12. You’ll be surprised what your kids reveal when you’re in a relaxed environment, such as a family meal.
13. Family meals can be good learning moments, even for small children. Want to start homeschooling or unschooling? Start at the dinner table!
14. Eating together is a good opportunity to model good manners.
15. Family meals are also good times to share music together.
16. Family meals teach everyone valuable life skills, such as sharing and taking turns.
17. Family meals provide an additional occasion for family members to pray together.
18. Eating home is more eco-friendly than eating out or ordering food – less waste!
19. Kids are less likely to become picky eaters when frequently eating home prepared meals together with the rest of the family.
20. Meal time is a good time to relax and carefully watch your kids grow at their own peace.
If the whole planning, shopping and preparation of meals is something you feel you need some help, maybe it’s possible to try a Menu Planner. Check out Dine Without Whine for kid-tested, quick recipes that will help you put together family meals with less effort. Dine Without Whine’s weekly shopping lists will also help you get food shopping done much faster, and even save money on groceries.
As you can see from the list above, the extra time and effort you spend to have family meals more often are worthwhile.
How frustrating it is to go shopping and forget you needed an ingredient! Or make your shopping list a few minutes before shopping and then realizing you forgot to write down what you most needed. Worst of all, go shopping without an idea of your family needs and end up buying too much of items you don´t need and forget important items your family eats regularly. Loosing time and money is not fun.
Planning ahead your meals and therefore having a shopping list is a great time saving practice for moms and families. Don´t forget the side effect of feeling in control and calmed about what to buy and what to cook, optimizing your time and money and feeling good for those you love.
Meal planning is something I strongly recommend to any mom, but especially moms of multiple children. I´m the mom of one child, and find that planning ahead what we want to eat next week is crucial for keeping our sanity and health. It´s also a great money saving practice.
So where do you start?
The friends of Dine Without Whine are giving away this sanity saving sheets. Just give them a try for a few weeks and decide if you keep planning or go back to the old way.
1. Print out 1 dinner planning sheet and 1 grocery sheet for each week (You can pre-print a bunch and save them in a file folder, so you’ll have them handy each time you need them).
2. Plan your dinners for the week. You might go through recipe books, search on the Internet or prepare some family favorites.
3. As you choose the meals, take note of the ingredients you’ll need to purchase and input them into the grocery list. The grocery list has already been put into common grocery store sections, so you can do your shopping quickly and efficiently.
That’s it…once you’ve done your shopping, stick with the plan and you’ll have family dinners ready to go each and every night.
Have fun menu planning!
PS. If you have a large planning or are just simply overloaded with family tasks, I strongly recommend you to take up on their 1 cent offer.