|Our monthly meal plan...it's not pretty but it works!|
My favorite tips:
Designate a night each week for a certain dish that you will enjoy each week. For example, every Tuesday is pasta night, every Wednesday is soup night and every Friday is pizza night. This may sound kind of ho hum for meal planning but think of all of the different pastas, soups and pizzas that you can create....plus your family will come to expect certain dishes on certain nights and there can be comfort in the routine.
The crock pot is your friend. Cook a whole chicken in it for a delicious meal one night and use left overs for tacquitos the next night. Cook a pot roast one night and wa-laa with left overs you have the beginning of shephard's pie the next night. Nothing makes coming home after a busy day away than the welcoming smell of a meal prepared in a crock pot. This makes for easy clean up too!!!
Create a master grocery list. Put items that you always buy on it and leave a little room for misc. items that are special to that months meals. Print one out at the beginning of each month and start circling or highlighting items that you will need to purchase at your next big grocery visit. This is the beginning of your monthly grocery list.
Each weekend look ahead at your meal plan and see what perishables (fruits, vegetables, dairy) that you will need for that week's meals. This will make your trip to the grocery a dash in and dash out kind of trip and sometimes you may not need to go at all...you may be able to rely on canned or frozen produce depending on what meals you have planned and how stocked your pantry is.
I happen to love magazines and I subscribe to a few foodie ones....they give me ideas for meals that are fun and new to try. This keeps my recipe rotation exciting for my family to enjoy. My favorite magazines are Taste of Home and Taste of Home Simple and Delicious. I also love going to different websites and checking out recipes when I have time. I really enjoy The Pioneer Woman's website at www.thepioneerwoman.com and All Recipes at www.allrecipes.com
Include your kids in your meal planning when you can. I usually ask my kids what their favorite breakfast is (pancakes!) and always include what they say somewhere in the month's meals. They enjoy having input and I figure it is step one in teaching them how to plan for their own families someday.