Our first discussion on meal planning was me answering the why question. Why I do meal planning and freezer meals. Today I want to share a few tips or ideas that have made meal planning easier for me.
First off I'm gonna say know your audience. Know what your family's needs, desires, and maybe even goals are food wise and cater to those as much as possible. I completely believe, and teach my kids, that God made food for our enjoyment, but it is also for the nourishment of our bodies so it's okay to eat things we don't really like because it is what is served or what is available. But the flip side is that there is no reason to bring on WWIII with your children every night because they detest certain foods.
I try to introduce different foods to my family and I don't often make separate meals for picky eaters. I will say that it is pretty hard to make a three year old eat something they don't like though. There are times when I know my kids are just being picky, but there are those few foods that they just don't like. Sometimes I just don't serve them those foods. Sometimes the other option is pb&j. There are also somethings I just let them pick out.
Even HH has a few things he's picky about. Zucchini is one of those things. He knows I chop and shred it up and put it in lots of our food. I just don't serve it to him by itself.
And speaking of HH, who is adorable by the way, he's not the most severe meat-n-potatoes guy I've ever met, but, to him, unless the meal has meat it's survival food. For me it is important to cater to HH's desires and needs and it makes me happy to make food he enjoys, but I have cut back on the portions of meat I use and I try to do one meat-less meal a week. Those aren't his favorite meals of the week, but I just tell him those are the nights we are in wilderness survival training. And those meals are better than the cottage cheese waffles I served once...that he refused to eat. Poor guy.
Anyways, the reason I state this as my first tip is that there is so much information out there with great ideas and other family's choices, but we have to remember that our family is it's own separate unit and we have to find what works best for us. Glean. Take the things you think will work for you and try them out. Maybe try something you aren't sure of. You never know. But don't try to force yourself, your hubby, or your kids into some other family's mold.
(Stepping off soap box now.)
Secondly, if you are new to meal planning try at first to make 10-12 of the same meals twice. So in one month's time you'll have the same meal twice but can spread it out however works best for you.
Third, plan at least one night a week to be "left overs" night. Clean the fridge out and eat all the random left overs up. For us this cuts down on waste and makes for an easy cooking night. I usually plan left overs for days when I'm really busy.
Another tip for busy days is planning a crockpot meal. Our homeschool group meets at our house on Wednesdays and I've found that is the best day for me to have something going in the crockpot. Then if anyone stays late to chat I don't have to rush off to make dinner.
Also, make a master shopping list. I don't mean jot things down you think you may need. I mean sit down and think about all the things you buy when grocery shopping. ALL. You'll find that you revise and add to your list as you get more comfortable with meal planning but this is such a helpful tool. For me having this master shopping list saved on my computer helps me to think about the things I often forget about. Like floss. Sippy cups to replace the leaky ones. And random spices I barely use. I do try to jot things down as I run out, but I really do rely mostly on my master list. When I'm ready to do my shopping I sit down with my recipes and mark the things I need and then I go through the list to mark everything else I plan to buy. Like scotch tape.
And finally, for now, give yourself time. It will take you some time to figure out what will work for your family. Sometimes out schedule is really open and I can do a lot of food prep myself. There are those months, though, that I have to plan for a busier schedule. It's easy to get discouraged if all the things you wanted to do didn't get done the first month. There have been many months when I come home from shopping discouraged because I felt like I "did it wrong." HH has his hands full, let me tell you.
Do you have any meal planning tips you'd like to share?