Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Meal planning made simple

Before I go any further about what does work (for me) in planning out meals, I want to write about why it is so important to have regular family meals at home. It goes beyond the benefits of not having to worry about coming up with something to fix each day and saving money with less trips to the grocery store and less impulse buying (although those are great benefits).

In her book, The Food Nanny Rescues Dinner, Liz Edmunds talks about the benefits of having regular family meals at home. She talks of research done by the University of Minnesota that "investigated the potential benefits of family mealtimes on children and found that families that dine together tend to have healthier, more well-adjusted children." Their studies also indicated that "the more often children and teens eat with their parents - and the happier, more structured these mealtimes are - the more the children gain these benefits: better nutrition, better language and literacy, fewer eating disorders, and fewer risky behaviors."

There is definitely something to be said for the security and comfort (for everyone) that comes from consistent, well-planned, pleasant meals with the family all gathered together, at home!

So, here are some things that I have found work (for me) when it comes to easy meal planning:

*stick to the 2 or 3 cookbooks that you most regularly use
*if you have loose recipes lying around, gather them all together into a 3-ring binder; this way, as you print more from the internet or make copies of others that you like, you can just hole-punch them and add them to your binder; I have a binder that I use in combination with 2 other great cookbooks; I have it sectioned off into breads, brinner (breakfast for dinner), main courses, and soups
*go through your cookbooks that you plan to use, and instead of marking each page of a recipe you like, get a sheet of plain printer paper and make a list of each recipe you want to use and what page it is on; this way instead of searching through your cookbook, you have a list to quickly look at to pick out what you would like to make
*think about what your family likes to eat most, and come up with themes for each day of the week (Mexican, Italian, Pizza, etc)

This is a large part of the beginning work. Like I said yesterday, I am not a planner by nature. But, this bit of initial planning really is what makes the rest of the process much easier. When I did this, I didn't sit down and try to tackle it all in one day. Instead, I worked on it bits and pieces at a time when I had the chance (after the kids were in bed, during a little bit of down time during the day, etc). Once you have all of this done, there are a few more steps that I will go over tomorrow that makes the whole process incredibly smooth.

So get those cookbooks and start sorting! Tomorrow I will explain the rest :)

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