Planning menus

Tips to plan your families menu for the busy week ahead.

Do you know how to plan a menu? For a day? For a week or a month? It may take a little time at first, but in the long run it can save you much time, money and energy. When I was a young mom, I prepared weekly menus using the sale fliers from the grocery stores in the Sunday paper. I stretched my food budget quite a bit and didn’t have to wonder what to have for dinner each day as it was already planned. Try using these steps recommended from Michigan State University Extension to get started:

  1. Check sale fliers to see what is on sale. Use these items in the menu plan – you are planning breakfast, lunch and dinner, so don’t just think about the main dish.
  2. See what you have already in the house – bread, eggs and milk can make a great French toast dinner, and leftover pizza does nicely for breakfast or lunch.
  3. Use a chart to fill in what you are planning for each meal. Remember snacks are important too. If one day is short on your daily vegetable intake, you could plan a celery and carrot snack. Think about using leftovers for future meals that week. Leftover vegetables can easily be used in a meatloaf or casserole to use them up and for more nutrition.
  4. Check to make sure all food groups are represented each day. Vary colors and textures – chicken with cauliflower and mashed potatoes can look quite boring, but switch it out with broccoli and roasted potatoes and it becomes a much more interesting plate. Choose My Plate has information on what you need each day, along with the serving sizes.
  5. When the plan is done, make a shopping list of what you need for the week – check your shelves first before purchasing. Unless it is an on-sale staple that you know you will use later, don’t buy anything just because it is on sale.
  6. Look through your coupons to see if you can take advantage of more savings.
  7. Go shopping for what you need, making sure you’re not hungry when you go. If you can leave the kids at home for a less stressful trip, do so. If that can’t be done, take them along and have them help. If cabbage is on your list, have them choose which one to use. If one company’s cereal is specially priced, they could each choose a box from those.
  8. If something is on sale (toilet paper, canned corn, etc.) and you have the extra money, buy in bulk. As long as it won’t spoil, it’s a great way to stock the pantry and save money.
  9. When you get home, put everything away properly – cold or frozen to the refrigerator or freezer immediately.

Now relax. There won’t be any “what should I make” for lunch or dinner any longer, you have it covered!

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