Menu Planning 101

Trying to drive to Alaska from Florida without a road map is pretty impossible.  Trying to eat healthy without a menu and a plan is pretty impossible also.  After a busy day at work or field tripping with my children, I need to be able to come home and prepare dinner without having to think.  I need to move quickly and with forethought in order to get a healthy and delicious meal on the table in 30 minutes.  If I didn’t take the time earlier in the week to plan our meals, I would be lost and the quality of our food would suffer.  Not just the taste, but the healthiness as well. If there was one thing I would strongly recommend it would be to make the time each week to sit down and develop a menu for the week.  It doesn’t have to be rigid and inflexible and it doesn’t have to be elaborate.  It just needs to take into account your family’s schedule, taste buds and budget.

Healthy eating doesn’t just happen.  It does require some planning and forethought, but it doesn’t have to be complicated or boring.  Often people ask me, “If you don’t eat eggs, meat or dairy, just what DO you eat?”  My response is always the same.  “There is not enough days in the year to make all of the delicious foods God’s provided for us.”

5 Easy Steps to Menu Planning

1. Prepare your menu when you are not hungry and not pressed for time.  I normally take about 15 minutes in the evening, right after the children have gone to bed.  Dinner is over, my tummy is full and I find it relaxing to think about all of the delicious foods we will be enjoying the following week.  If I am rushed or hungry when I prepare my menu, it doesn’t work well for us.

2. Start with your family’s activities and schedules.  The first thing I do when planning our menu, is to look at my calendar and see which days I know we will be too rushed or too tired to do much food preparation.  Those are the days I rely on my slow cooker or on previously frozen meals (leftovers).  There’s nothing more frustrating to me than coming home from a full day and having a complicated or unfamiliar recipe staring me in the face.  That is when my willpower is at its lowest and I am most tempted to use a drive-thru.  Know your limits and plan around them.

3. Take into account your family’s taste buds.  Every week, I try to make sure that I am fixing some of everybody’s favorite foods.  I also try to balance that out at every meal.  If there is a dish I really love, but I know my children don’t enjoy, I balance it out with a dish that same night that I know they love.  They still have to eat some of everything I prepare, but I can fill their tummies that night with a food they like.  Also, most of your favorite recipes can be modified to a healthier version of its original self for a familiar, healthy meal.

4. Take into account your budget.  Begin to learn when fruits and vegetables are in season in order to make the most money conscious menu choices.  With the advent of global shipping most fruits and vegetables are available year round.  However, the freshest foods are those grown nearby, not a half a world away.

5. Have a list of old time favorites and a cookbook nearby.  Menu planning time can be a time to let your creativity shine, within the comfort of your family’s favorite items.  I love to find a favorite cookbook or a new one and peruse the collection of healthy foods.  Sometimes the dishes I select are duds but most times we find a real gem.

Click here for sample menus

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