Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Meal Planning Part DEUX. How to prevent your kids from turning into a chicken nugget.

Meal Planning Part DEUX

Most of us would like to eat out less 
because that usually equals a healthier diet 
and a little more cash in our pockets never hurts either.

So, If you're not a spreadsheet kinda girl where do you plan your meals.

Scratch paper? 

Legal Pad?  

On your family calendar somewhere?  

Here's an option I'm quite fond of.....   The Eat Sheet.

I found this meal planner about a year ago and just love it.  I put mine in a 3 Ring Binder. You can print enough for the whole week at a time..whatever gets your fancy. (there's no right or wrong here're planning meals ahead for goodness sakes!)  

I found The Eat Sheet   at
(They have alot of other cool downloads, 
hints and tips as check them out! )

Personally, I write my meal plan in pencil...because I tend to swap things around. You could also place these in Sheet Protectors or laminate and use a dry erase marker if you'd rather reuse the same sheets. You could also keep your laminated sheet on a clipboard or put it on the fridge. I plan for Pizza nights, leftover nights etc...  On my Eat Sheet-- in Each Day of the week box ...I put  the letters  B(breakfast), L(Lunch) D (Dinner).  Now I don't always plan out all 3 meals...but doing this does tend to help alot with grocery shopping (which my sweet husband does! He rocks!) and my husband likes to look ahead to see what culinary adventures I have in store for him. 

Things that have proven to be true for me regarding meal planning:

1. Meal time is less stressful.  
 One less thing I have to think about everyday.  Whether you plan ahead by week or month or quarter...I think you'll be amazed at how much more you eat at home.  If you're juggling Soccer, Dance, Gymnastics, Homework, Work, Volunteering, Music, Art and who knows what's nice to  look at the list before you go to bed..lay out what you are having for dinner, jot down any items you may need to pick up while you're out the next day and not worry again.  Stress (regarding mealtime anyway!) has left the building in the mealtime category.

2. Grocery Bill reduced.. 
We simply eat out less when I have a meal plan in place.  You can save even more if you plan your meals around whatever meats/main course items are on sale.   One of my favorite purchases was a vacuum sealer.  We can buy meat, chicken etc on sale in bulk and freeze without freezer burn worries.  A mealplan, a vacuum sealer and lots of freezer space can save you $$$.
3. I try more new things.  
 When I put it in writing and realized we were having, spaghetti, tacos, lasagna, chicken,  in the same rotation because it was easy to do last was a little embarrassing. i wrote things out...I began to fill in with recipes I'd been wanting to try....and somehow...our standbys become less and less frequent.

4.  The family starts looking forward to dinner. (instead of looking LIKE dinner)
My kids have tried so many new things...not that I haven't seen a few wrinkled noses or whiney tones of "what's that".... but for the most part..they enjoy the variety and I no longer feel like their going to turn into a Chicken nugget.

5. It tends to snowball into other things..first you're planning meals..feeling all disciplined and feeling less stressed at night.  Next thing you're alphabetizing spices, hanging things in your closet according to the color wheel, fitting 2 cars in your 2 car garage ....(okay...maybe I'm exaggerating a bit.)  But the energy you save not sweating dinner plans...will be put to good use doing something you enjoy like reading, spending a few more minutes with the kiddos before bedtime, ..etc.

6. Healthier- we eat healthier...more of a variety and smaller portions.  It is astonishing how out of wack restaurant portions are these days.  THEY ARE HUGE!  We eat less at home...bottomline. 

There are definitely alot of perks to meal planning!   And..this list is certainly not all inclusive.   The reality is..we all, usually, fall off the organizational wagon in more ways than one at various times in our life, (okay I know some of you were never on it, that doesn't mean you can't hitch a ride now!).         IF you're not planning meals at all...challenge yourself to schedule 2 days in advance for this week.  Next week..challenge yourself to plan the whole week.  Then go for the gold and plan the whole month!  

I'd love to hear your comments on what works for you.  Finding the solution that fits your lifestyle and personality will make all the difference in whether you stick with it or not. So as you look at different ideas...I encourage you to customize them and make them your own..then share your ideas with other wives and moms.    Happy Meal Planning...(couldn't resist!)

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