What’s For Dinner? Managing Your Menu

What’s for dinner?  If you have a family — or even if you live alone — it’s a constant question and providing balanced meals that are yummy and affordable and vary from week to week can be hard.

My family is growing from 3 to 4 and getting the menu planned is harder and harder the busier we get.  BUT, it’s an important part of the week for me because I want healthy meals and I don’t want to go to the grocery store every day.  Also, since we started planning the family menu, we save (on average) about $80 a week.  Not only that, but we have cut down the amount of wasted food we have and that feels pretty good, too.

Here’s how it works for our family and some of the lessons we have learned along the way:

  1. Use Technology like a menu app that will do everything from capture recipes from the Internet to plan your shopping.  There are dozens of them for both Android and Apple devices.  Here are the things we find most useful:
    1. App has ability to pull recipes from the internet and store them
    2. App has the ability to create a menu by week
    3. App has the ability to add ingredients from the recipes to a shopping list, and add additional items, too
    4. App has the ability to remember ingredients you can add again and again.
    5. If you have a significant other who might do some shopping — or would want to add items to the list — make sure the app account is sharable on different devices so when he adds mustard to the list, it pops up on your list, too.
  2. Get Others Involved with the menu planning.  My husband wants to be involved — but doesn’t want to do the boring planning stuff.  So, we have come up with a system where he will email me or send me a recipe that he likes and I’ll fit it into the schedule in an upcoming week.  Also, remember what your family likes and keep those things in rotation.
  3. Be Flexible especially because schedules change.  One night, if you had planned a yummy baked chicken dish, you might have forgotten the kid has ball practice until 7pm.  In those cases, be flexible to change the menu or move menus from one day to the next.
  4. Shop Wisely and With Purpose and you will save money.  For instance, my app allows me to group items by isle (according to my favorite grocery store).  It took a while, but I finally learned to buy the things on the list — not much else.  That allowed us to save money each week and waste much less food.  The number of rotted tomatoes or spoiled sandwich meat has really declined and that feels great!  Always remember that you’ll need to add more than just meal ingredients to the list each week, but do so with purpose.  If you will be home on the weekend and need bread and sandwich meat for lunches, make sure you have it ready — but not so much you will have spoiled food if it is not all eaten.
  5. Build In Leftovers in your menu.  You don’t cook every night (well, we don’t) so I make sure we build in our menu nights when we will have leftovers.  Also, I plan additional meals around our leftover food.  For instance, if we have a meal with roasted chicken one night, two nights later, we can use the leftover chicken in a pot pie.  It’s amazing how much money we save just thinking out what to do with food we will have handy.  If you don’t want to use your leftovers immediately, invest in one of those things that will bag and seal your food so you can freeze it and put it back into rotation later (we’re doing this so we will have plenty of reserve meals when little baby makes an appearance in a few weeks).
  6. Add in Your Fun Nights, too!  Plan the times you will go out to eat, too so you are not wasting food or money.  it’s also to fun to plan date nights and family fun outings.  For fun things to do, check out Get My PERKS (for great deals on restaurants, too).

 

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