Monday, February 4

Menu Planning and The Not-So-Organized Mom

I am not the most organized woman. I don't pretend to be.

I don't do windows or trash and on my best days I try to keep the laundry room floor clear and the dust bunnies at bay. However, when it comes to planning ahead I do excel. It doesn't matter the subject, I truly LOVE planning ahead and making lists! Vacations, parties, decorating, gift giving, RETIREMENT and most certainly meal planning. I know meal planning is nothing new to the world of frugal families everywhere. I am also aware that most families could not make it financially if it were not for planning ahead and grocery shopping the sales....AND may I say 'kudos' to those of you that do! Whether 'economize' or 'budget' are words that apply to you, it's just the smart thing to do!

I have an ongoing roster of 20 tried and true 'meal planning' menus that I rotate. These are healthy meals that my family love and I know they will eat. When I come across a new recipe I'd like to try, I prepare it for the family and we decide if it's worthy of a spot in our rotation. 12 of our regular meals are relatively easy and quick to prepare and lean toward the frugal side, while 8 of these planned meals are a bit of a splurge. They usually involve some sort of really good steak and or seafood....because let's face it, life is too short not to enjoy! Cioppino is one of the P's all-time favorite meals and I love being able to fit it into our budget and schedule.

Twice a month I sit down with the family calendar {our schedules and routines change, especially as the children grow older}, my recipes, the grocery store flyers, coupons and our roster of menus; I then spend some quality time meal planning and making a grocery list. With list and coupons in hand, I head to the grocery store. At this point, I the keeper of this fine house...I have done as much as I can to use our money wisely, provide healthy and appetising meals for my family and keep the P's college, retirement and vacation fund intact. 

If I have not convinced you to try your hand at meal planning here are a few advantages you might want to think about.

  • SAVES MONEY - Planning your meals in advance allows you to take advantage of the weekly specials at the grocery stores as well as the use of manufacturer’s coupons. You’ll make fewer trips to the grocery store saving you money on gas and reducing the wear and tear on your vehicle. You can also have a weekly family 'leftovers meal'. Choosing what they want from the fridge, the kids LOVE this particular meal and it eliminates waste...saving you money on groceries.
  • SAVES TIME -You will have everything you need to prepare your meal. No more wasted time trying to decide what to prepare, searching for ingredients, or special trips to the grocery store. I hate it when that does Mr.P, because he is usually the one sent to the store!
  • PROVIDES BETTER NUTRITION -Creating a menu planner makes you more aware of what you are feeding your family. It encourages you to make better choices. 
  • SUPPORTS LOSING or MAINTAINING YOUR WEIGHT - Because you are planning healthy meals and shopping for only ingredients listed in your menu planner, you will have less access to fattening and high calorie foods that are not ideal for  healthy living. You will be less likely to run out and buy junk food if healthier options are at the ready for you and your family.
  • PROVIDES A VARIETY of MEALS -When you are trying to decide what to prepare for supper at the end of a busy day, you usually fall back on the 2 or 3 meals that are easiest and quickest to cook. Eating the “same old thing” every day can get monotonous and the kids hate it! However when you plan ahead, you can prepare a variety of meals in a short amount of time.
  • HELPS TO LOWER STRESS -When you enter the kitchen at the end of the day, you will know what you are going to prepare for dinner, and how long it will take to prepare the meal. Planning your meals ahead of time eliminates the daily stress of meal preparation.
  • SUPPORTS TIME MANAGEMENT - A menu planner allows you to plan your meals according to your weekly schedule. You can choose the quickest to prepare meals for your family’s busiest days and if there are days when your schedule does not allow time for cooking, you can plan to cook a larger amount the day before. If your morning schedule allows for extra time, prepare a crock-pot meal before you leave for work. Arriving home to a meal that is hot and ready to eat is a wonderful thing indeed! Also knowing what you will be preparing for each day of the week allows you to combine certain tasks. If browned ground beef will be used in recipes on Monday and Wednesday go ahead and brown enough for both meals on Monday. Does your meal for the evening include cooked rice or pasta? Why not cook the rice or pasta in the morning while you are eating breakfast? Cook, drain, rinse with cold water and set it in the refrigerator. It will then be ready and waiting for you.
  • ALLOWS FOR DELEGATION - When your family knows what the menu for the week is, they are then able to help you prepare it. If your husband arrives home an hour earlier from work than you do, perhaps he could prepare the salad. Your children could set the table. If someone is at home, call them on your way home and ask them to preheat the oven. Anything that will decrease the amount of time it takes to get dinner on the table, will be a benefit to everyone. 

So why not give menu planning a go? No more frantic dashes to the grocery store, mad digging through your pantry or 'What's for dinner?' questions from the family. It might require some creativity, and a little bit of planning-ahead, but it’s worth it!  Feeding your family healthy, appetising food while saving money is totally inspired!  It just may be the single most important and life-changing decision you can make for your sweet, little family. 

Plan a week of meals for your family...'ll be glad ya did!


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