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5 Tips for planning monthly dinner menus
This is really a fun activity and something that can be done as a
family (with the added benefit of mom not feeling like she's doing all
the work). Pick an evening once a month, pull out the cookbook,
recipes, or go online to your favorite recipe website, and write down a
month's worth of meals. (Bring out the chips and dip, too. Then you'll
have eager participants!) Even if you don't stick to your menu
completely (I know my family doesn't), you will definitely like the
benefits. Let's get started!
1. When planning monthly dinner menus, make a list of your family's favorite foods.
This will give you an excellent starting place. Too many moms believe
that planning monthly dinner menus for their family means starting over
with new or exotic recipes. It's simply not true. While it's fun to try
new recipes (and I would certainly encourage you to consider expanding
your family's taste buds occasionally), it's just smart to start with
what everyone already likes. You'll probably have a list of at least 20
meals, maybe more. Write them down and separate them according to how
quickly a recipe can be made so you can plan fast meals on busy nights.
Also take note of ingredients so that as you're planning you won't end
up with chicken seven times in one week (unless your family really
likes chicken!). By the way, if your family has favorite restaurant
foods, you should see this copycat recipe ebook I found. Cooking your
favorite restaurant foods at home is much less expensive than actually
eating out, as everyone knows.
Write your menus out on any calendar or use ours. (Scroll down to see more dinner planning tips after calendar.)
Print this monthly dinner menu planning calendar. (Requires a PDF file reader such
as Adobe Acrobat Reader).
2. Don't plan a meal that you like to eat but don't like to cook.
Unless, of course, someone else is going to cook it for you. Seriously,
I have done this quite often. And it's not smart. When I'm planning our
dinner menus I'll actually include recipes that I enjoy eating
but detest cooking. And when the day comes to cook that meal, I'm just
not going to do it. This type of poor planning eliminates the benefits
of planning your monthly dinner menus, so don't make the same mistake I
3. When planning monthly dinner menus, consider your family's schedule.
If there's something else on your family's calendar, you certainly
don't want to be faced with a 'planned meal' that means 3 hours in the
kitchen! Planning monthly dinner menus means more than just assembling
ingredients and recipes. It means coordinating your meals with your
family's lifestyle for maximum benefits.
4. What can you do ahead of time?
Plan a 'prep' time as you plan your monthly dinner menus. Do everything
ahead of time that you possibly can. For example, I like to cook and
chop all my chicken at one time. I then freeze individual meal
portions of cooked, diced chicken, seriously reducing my cooking time
on any given particular day. Preparing freezer meals (cooking an entire entree'
ahead of time and freezing it for later 'heat and serve' usage) is
great, but I find just cooking the meat ahead of time saves me
considerable time and still allows me great flexibility, too. Some veggies
can also be chopped and frozen, depending upon their final usage. Here
is a great resource
for learning about freezing both fruits and veggies.
I also make several seasoning mixes ahead of time and keep in my
freezer. I find that cuts down on time in my kitchen, as well. Here's a seasoning resource I like that you may
find useful, as well.
5. Consider doing double duty when planning monthly dinner menus.
This means cooking once and eating twice, always a nice treat! When
planning your dinner menus, look to see which of your family's
favorites would be easy to double in size and would also freeze well.
There's nothing quite like walking to the freezer and pulling out a
meal ready to heat and serve. And this is generally much healthier and
less expensive than purchasing ready-made convenience foods.
Bonus Tip! Use the buddy system.
If you have spent much time on this site, you know I believe in doing
things with a friend. If planning your menus doesn't work out as a
family (see my tip at top of page), and especially if you have
small children in your
household, you will enjoy your time spent planning monthly dinner menus
with a friend. Let the kids play and the two of you moms can really get
work done, plus have a great time. It's a win-win situation...and your
family's food budget may be blessed, as well. Planning monthly dinner
menus nearly always results in spending less money at the grocery store
than not planning out your meals ahead of time. And it's a myth it
takes longer than using convenience foods (how much time are you
spending doing all those last minute runs to the grocery store?). Planning is always the key.
In summary, when planning monthly dinner menus, here are the key points to keep in mind.
1. Use your family's favorite recipes and write them down. Use a
calendar (or ours) to plan out your meals. You can even cook
your family's favorite restaurant meals at home with this fun
little ebook I found.
2. Plan only meals that you will actually want to cook when the day comes to cook them!
3. Plan your monthly dinner menus to coordinate with your family's busy schedule.
4. Do what you can ahead of time to save time and sanity.
5. Cook once, eat twice to maximize your efforts.
Bonus Tip: plan and cook your monthly dinner menus with a friend. Way more fun than going it alone!
Another Bonus Tip: if you also want to save money on your groceries, you'll want to use a pricebook when you shop. Otherwise, you're just throwing money away each month. Get even more grocery savings strategies.
"The checklist(s) look like they will be a big help to keep me organized while trying to balance work and home life."
"I love the monthly menu calendar. I'm newly married and am trying to organize our time and resources. Thanks"
"Thank you so much for all this valuable
information. I'm a young wife and new mom, and this website has
helped me in so many ways. Thanks for your service!"
Colleen Langenfeld is a mother with over 29 years of parenting experience and helps other busy moms around the globe at www.paintedgold.com.
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