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Meals In Minutes – If You Plan Ahead

Hi guys 🙂

Mr. Weekly Bite & I are in NYC for a couple of nights. We’re here to pick up our little M! We miss her so much!! We didn’t think she’d be up for the marathon house hunting, so she’s been in NY being spoiled by family 😉

Here’s another great guest post by Registered Dietitian Elana Natker from A Sprinkle Of Sage

Thanks Elana!!

Meals In Minutes – If You Plan Ahead

It’s 5:55 p.m. You’ve opened the fridge, the pantry, and the fridge again, hoping something will catch your eye that you can make for dinner that night. You used the last of the frozen pizzas saved for such occasions last night, and you’re fresh out of ideas. Uninspired, you pick up the phone and order delivery.

Does this sound like you? Me, too sometimes. It’s no wonder that dinnertimes in many households consists of “kids’ dinner” at one time – a hastily-prepared plate of hotdogs, buttered noodles and peas – with dinner for the parents happening later…or with one parent picking off the kids’ plates, and the other popping in a Lean Cuisine or picking up take-out on the way home.  This is despite numerous studies showing that families who eat together at home have healthier meals (the subject of a previous post). And while the “six p.m. scramble” happens to the best of us, there are simple ways to help avoid it, as long as you plan ahead.

In my family, we take about 5 minutes on either Saturday or Sunday morning to plan the dinners for the following week. Really – 5 minutes is all it takes! Not only does it save us time each night and helps us avoid the fridge/pantry/freezer shuffle, but it saves us money, time and food, too. That’s because having a menu helps me plan my grocery shop for the week (which inevitably is done later that Saturday or Sunday) and prevents daily trips to the grocery store for a single ingredient.

We start by having a list of dinners that we often make. When we’re in a dinnertime rut, we refer to the list to see if there’s anything we haven’t had in a while. If there’s still nothing that strikes our fancy, then we consult a cookbook and decide to try something new. If a list sounds too boring for you, or if you want to get your kids involved in meal planning, you can create a “wheel of dinner” to spin around – where it stops will be the meal for the given day. Or, put all your favorite dishes in a hat and have every family member take turns pulling one out. Some families consult the weekly circular from the grocery store, see what’s on sale, then decide meals from there. Whichever method you choose is fine – the key is to do it in advance! The menu board itself doesn’t have to be anything fancy – we use a magnetic whiteboard that hangs on the side of the fridge. Makes for quick updating and is conspicuous enough for everyone to know what’s on tap for the week, without looking like a restaurant menu board.

Another tip to make meal-planning easy is to designate regular theme nights or have a go-to dish that makes an appearance each week or bi-weekly. In my house, we have a chicken-apple sausage and orzo dish that everyone likes and is easy to make. It appears on the menu nearly every week. We also designate Saturday night as “cook’s night off” so we order in or raid the freezer for leftovers, and Sundays are almost always pizza night (toppings may differ week to week). Maybe in your house you can institute a breakfast-for-dinner night, or a kids’ choice night – whatever will get the whole family involved and get everyone to the table together.

After all, who really wants to sit down for dinner after a long day and hear, “Aw, mom – spaghetti again??”

8 Responses

  1. Gregg said on April 20, 2011 at 10:08 am

    I agree w/the planning and “go-to” meals…being empty nesters still requires some planning but after this many years the creative side sometimes wanes…lean cuisine and heart healthy quickies can make for a nice evening.
    Thanks for the reminders

  2. Nicole, RD said on April 20, 2011 at 10:16 am

    So, so true! I am a meal planner through-and-through and it saves me so much time and money! And, changing things up keeps me always excited about what I put on the table!

  3. Jen @ keepitsimplefoods said on April 20, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Love these tips! I totally agree that taking just a few minutes to plan out a weekly menu saves loads of time and money in the end. Thanks!

  4. Elana said on April 20, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Glad you all enjoyed this post. It really takes no time at all to plan ahead like this – especially if you have certain go-to meals you typically eat anyway. Also helps you avoid “cuisine burn-out,” like having Mexican or pasta two nights in a row.

  5. Michelle @ eatwellwithmichelle said on April 20, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    I agree! I started meal planning in August and have stuck with it. It has made a tremendous difference in my life. No stress each night about what to cook, less trips to the grocery store and less waste. Great tips!

  6. emily (a nutritionist eats) said on April 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    These are great tips! I always plan out my meals for the week and can’t imagine not doing it!

  7. emily (a nutritionist eats) said on April 20, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    These are great tips! I always plan out my meals for the week and can’t imagine not doing it.

  8. Anne Keo said on April 21, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    My husband and I have always planned our weekly meals – I learned it from my mother and I hate going to the grocery store multiple times for week.
    I need to make my own list of regulars – because our planning takes much longer than 5 minutes!
    I also like the idea of theme nights. While my son is still too young to young to get that, it will be important in the next year and it will help us to keep variety.
    Thanks!