Menu planning tips can keep you sane when you have a busy life, but still want to feed your family and guests yummy and healthy meals. I come from a large family, so you could say I have a little experience with meal and menu planning tips! Learning what to do and what to avoid while planning for your families meals can become essential, and after a while, natural and effortless. Here are my top 10 menu planning tips for your benefit!
1. Make the Effort
My top menu planning tip is this: Don't ever glide over menu planning or skip it altogether. You need to make sure you have a well-balanced menu planned out for your family each week or for any event you are organizing. As with anything else, you need to discipline yourself to do it. Once you get the hang of it, you will be able to do it in no time at all!
2. Cook Once, Eat Twice
Here's a tip for planning a menu that I adore! The idea is to cook once and eat twice. Cook a few chicken breasts for chicken salad one evening, then use the leftover chicken to make chicken tacos the following night. By doing this, you save yourself time, yet still have variety and you don't let any food go to waste!
3. Be Creative with Leftovers
Our family tries to use all leftovers in some way. If I've prepared corn and green beans one night and we don't eat them all, the next night I might throw them into a pot of soup along with the stewed tomatoes left over from the night before that. I try and incorporate leftovers into a meal in a way that no one can tell that they are leftovers. Make each dish seem new and fresh!
4. Use Perishables First
Out of all my menu planning tips, this is the one I seem to have the hardest trouble sticking to! If you don't use all your perishable items early in the week, they may spoil before you can use them and then you will have wasted your money. Try to use all your fresh fruits and veggies and breads early in the week, then your staple items like meats, eggs, tortillas and such can be used towards the end of the week.
5. Make a List
Making a list is probably one of the best menu planning tips I can give you! Having a list will keep you from overspending because you will know what you need when you walk into the store. You won't be distracted by browsing the aisles wondering what to get and end up overspending on junk food! Knowing what you want and need when you get to the store will help you to manage your time, and budget better AND it's a great menu planning tip!
6. Be Flexible
When you make out a menu for the week, remember that you don't have to stick to it day for day. If you have written down tacos for wednesday and chili for fridays, don't panic if it works out that you need to make the tacos on monday night and save the chili for saturday. Be flexible with your menu and things will flow much easier and smoother for you in the kitchen.
7. Shop Strategically
Before you leave to do your weekly shopping, look in your pantry and refrigerator to see what you already have on hand. Make your menu based off of things that you have available to use. Next, choose stores that are close to you and that have items you use on a regular basis. Think price and quality. There's no need to make 3 different stops if you can get everything you need at one store. However, you may like to take your time and shop around for the best prices, so do what works for you!
8. Learn to Freeze
If there's one menu planning tip that I can pass on to you as a lifesaver on more than one occasion, it's learning to freeze! Making meals when you have extra time on your hands and freezing them for later will come in handy for times that you are sick, don't feel like cooking or don't have time to cook! Casseroles freeze very well, as does taco mix, soups, and dips.
9. Make It Easy on Yourself
Menu planning tips don't necessarily have to be step-by-step instructions of how to prepare a gourmet meal each evening. Don't beat yourself up or feel guilty if you have a few nights where you pop a frozen pizza in the oven or order take-out. Lunches can sometimes be a salad or a sandwich. It won't make you any less of a cook to "cheat" from time to time!
10. Just Ask
One thing I have experienced occasionally with menu-planning is writers block! Every now and then I just can't think of meals to plan for my family! If this happens to you, just ask. Ask you children, husband, or whom ever you share a house with what they would like for dinner one or two nights each week. They may come up with fresh and new ideas that will be appealing and interesting to try out, not to mention delicious!
Nutrition should always be number one on your list of priorities for menu planning tips. And time is secondary to nutrition. You don't have to slave in the kitchen for hours on end to have healthy meals for your family! These tips for planning a menu will come in handy by helping you to manage your time and get more bang for your buck. Doesn't get much better than that! Do you have any tried-and-true menu planning tips to share?
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