A Week of Organized Family Dinners - In 8 Steps
Let's face it, our lives are busy! Do you find yourself wishing that you were able to put more nutritious meals on the table without "flying by the seat of your pants" to feed everyone? Here are 8 simple steps that will get you on your way to providing decent family meals without the stress!
Set Aside Some Time
Pick a time when you can sit down and concentrate and get ready to write two lists.You will need some space to spread out; I find this is a task best done at the kitchen table. You may also need access to some recipes whether it is a stack of cookbooks or your favorite recipe website.
Assess Your Inventory
Take a note pad and look through your freezer, refrigerator and pantry for things that you have on hand. Write these items down and use them as inspiration for your meal planning. If you find that your “cupboard is bare” then take the most recent circular from your favorite grocery store and get some inspiration from the “Loss Leaders” on the front page. This will also save you some money as these items are typically priced very low.
Start looking for meals that you can realistically put together in the time that you have to prepare the meals. For example, if you know that Wednesdays are crazy and you usually struggle to get a meal on the table, then plan on a frozen pizza and a bag of salad mix. You don’t have to be Betty Crocker here; you just need to be organized. If you’re not a whiz in the kitchen then I’m not recommending that you start using your cookbooks. Stay within your comfort zone and you are more likely be successful.
Write Two Lists
Get your pen ready and write two lists.One list will be for groceries and the other one for your meal plan. Go day by day, thinking of your schedule and planning each meal. Write the items that you will need to buy on the grocery list and a complete description of the meal on the other list. Don’t forget to include side dishes, condiments and vegetables. When putting vegetables on your grocery list, make note of how many meals the vegetable should cover. This will ensure that you don’t buy too much and waste it in the end. If you are a family that typically has leftovers, schedule a “clean out the fridge day” however it may be a good idea to have a back-up plan, just in case there aren’t any leftovers. Your meal list should look something like this:
Monday - Roasted Pork Loin with Boxed Au Gratin Potatoes and Fresh Broccoli
Tuesday - Chicken and Apple Sausages with a Seasoned Rice Mix and Frozen Mixed Vegetables
Wednesday - Frozen Pizza, Frozen Hot Wings and Caesar Salad Mix
Buy the items on your list and any other essentials needed for the rest of the week. Don’t get side tracked and buy a bunch of extra dinner items unless it is a great price and you can store it and use it for inspiration on another week.
Put it in Your Calendar
That’s right; commit your menu plan to some form of calendar. I prefer to use my iPhone, but use whatever works for you. However, one thing is essential; set up a system to remind you 24 hours before the meal. Stick a post it note on your bathroom mirror if you have to, just do it! That way, you can take any items out of the freezer that need to be defrosted. If you plan on preparing something in the slow cooker, you will want to take the food out a full 48 hours before dinner time.
Prep What You Can in Advance
This step is optional, but highly recommended for those who are stressed for time when it comes to meal preparation. Wash and cut or chop any vegetables in advance. This could be done in the morning before work, in the afternoon before you pick the kids up from school or while you are supervising the kids’ homework.
Stick to Your Plan
Stick to your menu plan and you will find yourself more relaxed when it comes to making meals for your family. Remember, if you don’t stick to your plan, not only will you have wasted time planning but you will probably end up wasting food too!