The lazy days of summer are winding down and before you know it, lots of kids everywhere will be heading back to school. We’re homeschoolers, so the whole “back-to-school” experience isn’t quite what is for many of you, but still — back-to-school time means getting back to routines.
Menu planning is one of the most important routines for me and I thought I would share a few of my favorite meal planning tips that work for me:
1. Set aside a regular time each week to menu plan. For me, it’ s on Saturday morning because I do my shopping Saturday afternoon
2. Check your cupboards, pantry, refrigerator, and freezer for what you have on hand and try to work those items into your menu plan. Keep sales flyers nearby so you can refer to them.
3. Post your menu plan on the refrigerator or somewhere in your home so everyone will know what to expect. This helps to keep you focused on what meal is on what day.
4. If you aren’t in a routine of using your crockpot (or slow cooker) very often, consider planning one meal per week that will use this time-saving kitchen appliance.
5. To avoid getting in a rut with menu planning, try one new recipe each week that you find in a cookbook, magazine or a website. It can even be a simple recipe. For example, this easy recipe for Creamy Ranch Dip caught my eye and I think it will be great to try for celery sticks and baby carrots with our lunches.
6. Don’t like or want to cook for scratch? Don’t feel like you have to! Make use of prepared items in your store — my kids don’t love me anymore if I make waffles from scratch or if I make them from a mix.
7. Make double of time-consuming meals. When you make lasagna, make sure you have enough sauce, cheese, and noodles on hand to make a second pan. Freeze the extra and you have a meal for another night.
8. If you have older kids, plan one night per week to be your “YOYO” night, which means “you on your own”. On this night, each member of your family can decide for themselves what they would like to have for dinner. In my home, the kids heat up leftovers, make a sandwich, heat up a frozen meal — you name it.
9. Plan one night per week to be a take out night. In our family, we love to have pizza on Saturday nights while we catch up on our favorite TV shows that we DVR’d or a favorite movie.
10. When shopping, consider smaller stores like Dollar General that you can get in and out quickly. Dollar General has many of the same items you’ll need for lunches and dinners too. For example, they carry your favorite KRAFT products at Dollar General (like LUNCHABLE Lunch Combinations, CAPRI SUN Big Pouch, KOOL AID LIQUID, PLANTERS nuts, A.1. Dry Rub, and VELVEETA CHEESY SKILLETS). You can even print coupons for extra savings right on their website.