“What’s for dinner?”
This is the 5’ o clock question that plagues at-home cooks every evening. The kids are hungry, blood sugars are running low, and you have no clue what you’re going to put on the table. If this is a reoccurring situation in your household, you should consider taking steps to plan your meals a head of time.
If you’re cooking for a large family, or a family with dietary restrictions or pickiness, menu planning is an important step to take in order to alleviate the stress that is concentrated in the kitchen around dinner time. When you plan your menu ahead of time, you will avoid the nagging from your spouse about serving leftovers two nights in a row and you’ll make sure to remember that your son is lactose sensitive and that your daughter hates cilantro.
Take a look at how menu-planning can benefit you and your family once it hits meal time.
#1 A Menu Plan Saves Money
When you have your menu laid out beforehand and you know exactly what to shop for at the supermarket, you can buy everything you need for the week in one trip, reducing the amount of times you’ll need to stop by the grocery store. Knowing exactly what you want to buy also ensures that you aren’t grabbing random items off the shelf on a whim, which is a huge money waster.
#2 A Menu Plan Saves Time
When you organize and plan ahead of time, you avoid the frantic, last minute scramble—“honey can you run down to store to grab some olive oil?!” With your ingredients and recipe laid out neatly in front of you, it’s much easier to prepare your meal quickly and efficiently.
#3 A Menu Plan Encourages Nutrition
Knowing what you are going to serve and having your ingredients readily available allows you to concentrate on eating and preparing nutritious meals. When you carefully select good recipes at the beginning of the week with appropriate side dishes, you are able to avoid throwing together a quick—yet unhealthy—option for dinner.
#4 Menu Planning Avoids Unnecessary Waste
One of my biggest pet peeves is wasting food. When you have your meal plan in place, any leftover food can be eaten the next day for lunch. It’s a shame to buy something from the grocery store on impulse and have to throw it out just days later. Organizing ahead of time is the key to buying and preparing only what you are able to eat.
#5 Menu Planning Avoids Stress
Cooking and preparing dinner for yourself and your family should be enjoyable—not a rushed process simply to subdue everyone’s hunger. A creative and thoughtful menu plan takes the pressure off the week and ensures that the whole family is happy. When you’re running low on time and energy, you’ll thank yourself for making a plan beforehand.
#6 Menu Planning Helps You Serve Better Meals
When you research dinner ideas at the beginning of the week or on the weekends, you have more time to come up with creative and delicious foods. Also, you have the time to plan a more complete meal that includes side dishes, a salad, and dessert. Your thorough menu plan will allow you to concentrate on good cooking techniques during the actual preparation of the meal.
#7 Menu Planning Will Encourage Variety
Pasta…again?! Nobody likes eating the same thing more than twice a week—three tops. A menu plan helps you avoid serving the same foods again and again. You can look for meal ideas online, ask your family, or attempt to diversify one of your favorite dishes with new ingredients. Everybody enjoys variety and planning your meals ahead of time will do wonders to help you mix it up. Bonus: you will definitely gain favor from your family when you don’t excessively serve repeat-meals or leftovers.
#8 Menu Planning Forces You To Plan Ahead
Seems a little obvious, but when you sit down and think about the week’s meals, you are able to prep in advance and think about your family’s favorite foods as well as the things they don’t like. Planning ahead means your kitchen will be more organized, your food will be served on time, and a tofu option will be available to your vegetarian dinner guest. So give it a try, it could organize your life in more ways than one!
So, you get the picture: plan ahead; plan for several days at a time; include side dishes; research new meal ideas; communicate with your family; and stick to your list when you hit the grocery store! When you have the meals you want to make for the week, jot down a list of necessary ingredients so that you get everything done in one swoop. Good luck and happy meal planning!