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On the Virtues of Menu Planning


Meal planning: is it just one more chore to add to the list? Or can it free up time, both in your brain and in your week? With proper execution, it can be the latter and it can be as simple as shifting your schedule.

Let’s say you’ve taken the time to plan out the week’s meals. You’ve involved the family in the planning so that you have their buy in. This is especially important if you have kids who each want something different. Perhaps they can each have a night for their favorite. And they’re more apt to eat sister’s choice, knowing that sister will be eating their choice that same week. You’ve placed simpler meals on the days where there are activities cutting into the available time.

Next, you build a specific grocery list from the menu. You check to see what ingredients you have and which you need. No more multiple boxes of pasta in the cupboard, with no sauce on hand! Now, you’ve saved money as well as time, since there are fewer trips to the grocery store for the forgotten item or the purchase of an emergency meal at the drive-thru.

Then, with a plan and the ingredients on hand, perhaps you’ll institute a prep ahead family event, where the kids learn new skills and the meal basics are prepped and ready to go for fast assembly later in the week. You can set a time limit, so the kids know what to expect. And with your meal plan in hand, you’ll know what can be made ahead and what to leave for later.

Eventually, you could delegate meal prep to the kids for a night. Once they’re used to helping choose a menu, they can choose a meal they’d like to prepare on their own. You get to stay in the background, and perhaps finish up some lingering details from your busy day, and then sit down to a satisfying meal you didn’t have to cook.

And then, when next week comes along, you know at a glance what meals earned a thumbs up so they can be rotated in for continued deliciousness. And those that received a thumbs down can be replaced with new ideas. The best yet is that taking time to plan eliminates that dreaded mealtime rut, since you are planning rather than reacting to hungry hordes.

So, with a little planning, there’s never a question as to what’s for dinner, whether you have the ingredients on hand, and how to find time to prepare it. Thus, there’s more space in your brain for all the other important things in your family life.

And when the day goes sideways, your mealtime can be an anchor in a sea of chaos, which can make the difference between a happy family and total pandemonium.

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