Early on in my parenting years, I determined that family dinners were a must. A time to relax, enjoy good food, review the day, and converse with loved ones, the supper table was where relationships were formed and family was established.
But in order to make that happen, I had to be diligent with menu planning!
5 Staples for Menu Planning
As with anything of importance, family dinners take planning and consistency. Although our family has had many different seasons, I created a menu planning system which had the flexibility for our life whether we were dealing with toddlers or teens.
Here are my five staples for successful menu planning.
Create a Menu Planning Routine
One of the planning tips I stress the most is making sure to set aside a specific time for planning. The same is true of menu planning!
Find a time of the week that works best for menu planning, such as the day before or the day of shopping. Creating a routine that is respected by the family will save you time on trips to the store and eating out. Whether weekly or biweekly, make time to sit and begin planning for your menu.
Take Inventory Before Menu Planning
Before menu planning and creating your grocery list, you can often save money and time by using up what’s in the pantry. Scan your shelves and begin brainstorming how you can use up those cans, boxes, and packages of food that have been sitting way too long in the pantry.
For grab-and-go meals like breakfast and lunch, create a list of grocery staples like butter, milk, eggs, peanut butter, etc. Use this list to take inventory before running to the store.
Tricks to hep narrow down the options for menu planning can be very helpful for creating quick meal choices.
In my neck of the woods, stores will honor competitor ads. So I review the best deals in local stores and begin to make my menu plans according to the pantry inventory and the best bargains on food for the week.
Stick to the Plan!
With my knowledge of what’s in the pantry and what’s on sale, I write out the menu. Sometimes, for special occasions, this will include a breakfast or lunch, but mainly dinners. I also take into consideration a leftover night, date night, or any other activity that might be planned.
Then, with a plan in hand, I create my grocery list, making sure to add staples to the list. I shop with list in hand, bringing along coupons and/or sale ads.
But here’s the kicker: I then have to stick to the plan!
Menu planning is only successful if you actually follow through and use it. This can feel frustrating if you’re a more spontaneous personality and prefer flexibility. Fortunately, there are a few extra tips for combining diligent menu planning with staying spontaneous.
- Instead of assigning specific meals to specific days, make a list of the meals you’d like to have groceries on hand for, then shop for those meals. Each day, pick something from the list.
- Keep a stash of ingredients on hand for a fun, favorite back-up meal. When the plan just doesn’t sound good, pull out the fun!
- If you’re menu planning for a week, create a list of ten meals instead of seven, giving you options. The “leftover” meals can carry over to the next week, and you can make those the priority so the ingredients don’t go to waste.
By creating a plan, shopping wisely, and cooking the meals you planned for, you can bring your family around a table each day for fun, food, and relationships.
Does menu planning come easily for you, or is it a struggle? Take our Planner Personality Quiz to discover your planner personality type and learn ways that you can make planning run more smoothly for you, no matter what your personality type.