Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed when trying to decide what to make for dinner? What I’ve learned from my years as a family dinner planning expert for The Six O’Clock Scramble is that 6:00 is just too late to start thinking about your family’s dinner. The key to maintaining our sanity around dinnertime, plus reducing waste and saving time and money, is to plan a few meals in advance (I usually plan 4 or 5), and grocery shop just once a week. I’ve boiled down the weekly menu planning process to 7 easy steps, and I’ve posted a week of recipes below to get you started:
1. Keep a grocery list somewhere prominent in your kitchen so that you and other family members can add to it during the week. When you use up an ingredient that you consider a staple, write it on your grocery list right away so you’ll be fully restocked after your next grocery trip.
2. Before you start to plan your meals, look in your refrigerator and see what ingredients you need to use up. Incorporate those items into your planned meals to avoid waste and save money.
3. Look at your calendar for the upcoming week. Note how many dinners you will need to make, and anything else you’ll need to shop for (i.e. dish for a potluck, school snack, etc.).
4. Using your favorite cookbooks, websites, or other sources, pick meals for every night but one (I like to get creative with leftover ingredients one night, to avoid throwing out food). Plan for some variety so your family won’t be eating chicken or pasta every night.
5. Remember to keep weeknight meals simple with one easy main dish and one or two simple side dishes, such as bread or rice and a steamed vegetable or cut fruit.
6. Update the grocery list with everything you’ll need for the meals you’ve selected, plus a few side dishes, breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. The goal is to go to the market just once each week, and, over the course of the week, to use up everything you purchase.
7. Keep the freezer stocked with a few easy side dishes, frozen vegetables, and a backup healthy meal or two in case an evening doesn’t go as planned.
To get you started on weekly dinner planning, I’ve picked 5 popular recipes from Kitchen Explorers for you to cook for your family next week. I’d love to hear how it goes!