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Meal Planning for a Family on the Go

Submitted by Meditec on Wed, 07/19/2017 - 12:35
Meal Planning for a Family on the Go

Let’s face it: what family with kids isn’t on the go? With multiple people of different ages with different schedules and duties, being constantly busy just comes with the territory. Night after night, tired from a full day of work, you pull together an edible meal in a reasonable amount of time. Your kid takes one bite, sneers, and asks for chicken nuggets. It’s enough to want to tear your hair out. As with many other challenges, research, planning, and preparation are the keys to effectively handling it and keeping your sanity. You need a system that works for your family, your finances, your skill level, and your schedule. Plan Meals for the Weeks. Breakfasts and lunches will usually be the same or with a few variations.  But it’s dinner where it’s different every day. Set aside 20 minutes on the weekends to open a spreadsheet and a draft a schedule of dinners for one week. If you have time, create several weekly schedules and rotate them so your family doesn’t get bored. Then you won’t have to schedule dinners the next few weeks because it’s done. Remember to ask the kids for ideas and preferences. Planning dinners a week ahead allows you pay more attention to nutrition and variety. It also makes it easier to make one big shopping list and get most of the groceries for the week in one visit. Buy Staples Ahead in Bulk. You know what your family likes and what they’ll eat. One good menu planning idea is to make periodic trips to Costco and grab large amounts of the items you use frequently, such as chicken breasts, pork chops, and ground beef. It’s also smart to stock up on the canned goods used in many dishes like chicken broth, beans, corn, tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes. Buying staples in bulk of course means you must have somewhere to put it all. Go through your pantry and freezers occasionally and toss old expired and frostbitten items. Make Ahead. Browse the internet and you’ll find tons of recipe articles and collections of make-ahead dinners. With some recipes, you prepare it up to a certain point, wrap it up and put it in the freezer or fridge, and then pull it out and finish it. There’s some prep work you can do ahead: chop certain vegetables, cook rice, stir up spice mixes, and make common sauces like marinara. You can also buy pre-chopped vegetables. One-Pot and Low Ingredient Meals. One-pot meals mean fewer dishes to clean. It also might mean fewer ingredients and fewer steps. In the same vein, collect several slow-cooker recipes you like and put them on your schedule. The crockpot is the savoir of the lazy cook: toss a few ingredients into it, turn it on, and forget about it for a few hours. It’s often cheaper, quicker, and easier to prepare meals with fewer ingredients. There’re loads of cookbooks and web sites devoted to 3-, 5- or 10- ingredient dishes. Many low-ingredient recipes have the same main components: a protein, a vegetable, and a grain or starch. Quick Dishes. Scan cookbooks and the internet for dishes that can be prepared in 30 minutes. Quick dishes often have fewer ingredients. With quick cooking, you have to be prepared. Make sure in the morning that you have all the needed ingredients, pots, and tools so you can get started right away in the evening. Get Organized. Make sure the dish washer has been run so you have all the dishes you’ll need. When you get home, pre-heat the oven and review the recipe so you know what’s necessary, such as marinating or longer cook times. Gather together the required ingredients before you start. Build a Recipe Library. Collect cookbooks and magazines full of quick and easy dishes. Compile links to favorite recipes online. After you’ve built a library of recipes that your family likes, menu planning gets easier because you spend less time hunting for dinner ideas. Try Menu Planning Apps. Of course, there’re menu planning apps for your smart phone. Some allow you to store recipes, create weekly plans, generate a shopping list, and track your pantry inventory. It doesn’t get much easier. One last thing: aside from adapting a system that works for you, another key to success is making menu planning and cooking a team effort. Enlist every member of the family. Ask for input on meal choices. Give everyone a job: prepping ingredients, setting the table, clearing and washing dishes. The kids will be more likely to eat the dishes without complaint. And doing it as a family is simply more fun. Sources: https://www.parents.com/recipes/tips/cookingwithkids/meal-planning/

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