How to make a family menu plan
What is a family menu plan?
A family menu plan is when you plan out the meals your family will be eating. You may choose to do this by week or by month, whichever suits your families needs best.
A family menu includes all meals and snacks for that given time frame including:
- Morning snack
- After noon snack
- Eating out (or ordering in)
- Holiday or celebration dishes
Why do a menu plan?
There are many benefits to doing a family menu plan.
- It saves you time and money at the grocery store.
- It reduces stress and increases the amount of time you can enjoy your family.
- It helps organize your routine for a smoother running day.
- It facilitates healthy eating habits.
- It increases the diversity of food your family eats, while decreasing your costs.
Depending on the age and willingness of your family members, it can also be a wonderful family activity. Children who get involved in planning and preparing meals tend to develop healthier eating habits and a greater willingness to try new foods which they have helped prepare.
How to do a menu plan: Step 1
Start by taking out a sheet of paper and making a grid which is 8 colomns by 6 rows, being sure to leave enough room to write. (You can also do this on your computer)
Label the top row: leave the first space blank, fill in the days of the week in the remaining 7 spaces (starting with the day you wish to begin your meal week). Typically people will choose to start their menu plan on a Sunday or Monday. Choose day works best for you.
Next you will label the first colomn, again, leaving the first space blank. Go down the colomn and fill in the meal titles: Breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, & dinner.
You now have your template for making weekly menu plans. You can choose to make copies or recreate this sheet each week. I like to do mine on the computer, saving the empty template and just filling in each week as we go along. I print out the finished plan so that I have a copy, then close the document without saving so I have a blank plan to begin the next week's plan with. I also like to print a blank copy out for myself to play around with before filing out and printing the final copy.
How to do a menu plan: Step 2
Now that you have your grid, you can start filling it out! (if your family doesn't have snack time you can choose not to put those spaces in)
Fill in each box with a meal. Try to incorporate the proper amount of food groups within each day. For example: Monday~
Breakfast: Wheat toast with peanut-butter, milk, banana
Morning snack: saltine crackers with cheese slices, water
Lunch: Ham sandwiches, vegetable soup, apple slices, water
Afternoon snack: celery sticks, ranch dip, fruit juice
Dinner: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, side salad, dinner roll, steamed broccoli, milk
Be specific in your meals by including beverages and side dishes. This will help you when you move to the next step. If you choose to have cereal every morning be sure to write it in each space. Will you be drinking water or juice with your cereal? Will you be offering a fruit? Is it hot cereal or cold cereal?
During this step it is helpful to look up different recipe ideas from cook books or recipe websites online. Challenge yourself to come up with different types of meals each day. Did you have pasta for dinner on Monday, why not go for a rice dish on Tuesday?
My family likes to have a different meat each night when possible, as well as a different ethnic style. Here is an example of our dinner plans:
Sunday:(French) Chicken cordon blue, side salad, croissants, milk
Monday:(German) Kielbasa sausage, sour kraut, boiled potatoes, green beans, rolls, milk
Tuesday:(Italian) Spinach Manicotti, garlic bread, side salad, milk
Wednesday:(Mexican) Soft shelled tacos, re-fried beans, chips & salsa, milk
Thursday:(American) Stuffed pork chops, garlic mashed potatoes, biscuits, corn, milk
Friday: (Oriental) Vegetable stir fry over white rice, cream cheese won-tons, milk
Saturday: (American) hot dogs, baked beans, potato chips, fresh cut veggies, milk
Don't forget about left overs! If you are having a difficult time coming up with ideas, try to toss in a left overs meal either for lunch or dinner at least once a week to use up the extra food before it goes bad.
How to do a menu plan: Step 3
Once you have figured out what you will be serving it is time to take an inventory of what you already have. Go through your fridge, freezer, and cupboards to see what ingredients are on hand.
Make a list of everything you will need to prepare you menu before heading to the store.
*If you have fresh ingredients on a meal which is at the end of your menu week you may want to hold off on purchasing it until closer to the day you need it.
By doing a menu plan you will be able to use up those odds and ends in your pantry by incorporating meals which need them. This saves money by eliminating otherwise wasted items.
Another great way to save is by paying attention to sales at the grocery store. Figure out how much you have on your food budget and if it allows, scoop up those good deals and add them to next weeks menu!
Get your kids involved. Ask them what they would like to see on the menu, or if there is a meal they would like to help prepare. Have your child look at the recipe and read the needed ingredients to you. Bring them with to the store and have them help you find everything on the list (like a treasure hunt).
In the beginning it might be a little challenging, but once you get into the swing of it I'm sure you'll find that family menu planning is one of those things you don't know how you ever lived without!