Planning Family Menus

A menu plan saves time, money and energy. It promotes a healthy diet and keeps you sane. Check out our tips for creating foolproof family menus for a week or more.

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Make It a Habit

Simple or not, a menu plan won’t help you if you don’t make one. Weekly menu planning is a good candidate for the weekly checklist. Get into the habit of planning before you shop, and you’ll get hooked!

Recycle Not Reinvent

After you’ve made menu plans for a few weeks, the beauty of the activity shines through: you can recycle them! Your family won’t mind, and you’ll save even more time and energy. Instead of an ambitious plan for 30-day menus, tuck completed menu plans in a file folder or envelope. Next time fryers are on special offer at the market, pull out the plan you made this week. Done!

Menu Planning Basics

OK, it’s food ad day. Ready? Time to rough out a simple menu plan. The goal is two-fold: shop efficiently to obtain food required for seven dinner meals, while minimizing expenditure, cooking, shopping, and cleaning time. These are the bare bones of menu planning: make a draft plan, shop from a list, retain flexibility, firm up your plan, and hold yourself accountable.

-Scan the food ads for specials and sales. Rough out a draft menu plan: seven main dinner meals that can be made from weekly specials, side dishes, and salads. Use a blank sheet of paper, or a menu planner form.

-Wander to the pantry and the refrigerator to check for any of last week’s purchases that are languishing beneath wilting lettuce or hardening tortillas. The best bargain is food you’ve already purchased so plan to use it! Review your shopping list and note any condiments or spices that you will need for the week’s meals.

-Ready, set, shop—but shop with an open mind. That fryer on special offer won’t look like such a bargain next to a marked-down mega-pack of boneless chicken breasts at less than a dollar a pound. Be ready to substitute.

?Return from shopping and stock your shelves. As you put away groceries, flesh out the menu plan. Match it up with the family’s calendar, saving the oven roast for a lazy Sunday, the quick-fix pizza for soccer night.

?Post the menu plan on the refrigerator door. Refer to it during the coming week as you prepare meals.

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Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited

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