The Workflow of Family Meals: Finding a Tasty Gameplan

by David Lennon
(Boston, USA)

Photo by Flickr user Liz

The children are whiny and hungry, and you just can't handle another night of fast food, but you haven't planned anything to cook. This scene is all too familiar for many busy parents, and for many families, the main obstacle to having a healthy meal on the table nightly isn't because of the time it takes to cook, but the time it takes to plan. Becoming someone who arrives home to bread slowly rising and a glorious stew cooking in the crock pot may sound impossible, but with little planning, anyone can do it.

Make Planning a Priority

Effective planning relies on just a few elements, but step one is resolving actually to make the effort, citing an article from Cooking Light. To foster your success, strive for a meal-planning style that works with your unique preferences. Some people like to cook twice as much as they need so they can freeze half and save it for another day. Others hate leftovers unless they've been revamped into a new dish. By asking your family for ideas, you can easily incorporate preferences into your plan, as well.

Understanding what works for your family is a critical part of making a successful plan, but inspiration is important, as well. Give yourself some ideas by watching a cooking show from Cable-TV or paging through a cookbook from the library.

It's important to keep in mind that while meal planning may feel like a chore, cooking and eating doesn't have to feel that way. A labor-intensive meal such as pizza made from scratch can become a fun night. Your kids will love the shared experience of rolling the dough and piling favorite toppings.

Your generic list should include items you buy weekly, such as milk, butter and snack foods. At the end of each week, you can take a simple inventory to see what items you need to stock up, and you can add any extras you may need based on your menu plan for the upcoming week. Add a few flavorful essentials to the generic list, suggests Shape. Balsamic vinegar, dijon, soy sauce, and hot sauce can give almost any meal a boost, and they're must-have items for nights when your family is craving something flavorful.

Build From What You Know

To start a menu plan, think about your 10 favorite meals. These meals can create a solid base for your monthly menu. Once you have those meals in mind, start thinking about how you can revitalize those old favorites. Eating the same thing over and over can get boring quickly, but by slightly varying your meals weekly, you can have comforting flavors in novel recipes.

Families should make a monthly meal plan that focuses on six-main ideas, suggests Real Simple. Throughout the month, these meals can reappear on your table in different forms. For instance, a meat loaf one week can become spaghetti and meatballs, tamale pie, or meatballs the other three weeks of the month. One week, you may flavor your chicken with rosemary and garlic while the following week you may pair it with lemon and goat cheese, and for the last two weeks in the month, you might try your hand at curried or coconut chicken.

Once you have a month's worth of meals planned out, you will love how easy your evenings will become. Instead of throwing a frozen dinner together or running out for fast food again, you can peacefully sit at the table or in front of the TV and enjoy something you know is healthy and tasty.

What tips do you have for effective planning? Leave them in the comments.

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