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Birmingham Parent magazine

Monday, January 26, 2015

Make Meal Planning Smarter in 2015

By Becky J. Beall

When my children were all youngsters, (and I have four that are very close in age) meal time in general was somewhat hectic. Planning what to cook only to discover a missing ingredient seemed to be a normal thing, along with all the last minute trips to the store to “grab a few items.”

By the time my children were all school age, I figured out a simple plan that saved me the most time and money of likely any other thing that I did as a mom. On Sunday afternoons I would sit down, plan out dinner for every night of the week and post it on the refrigerator. I would know in advance which days might be extra hectic and plan to cook things in the crock pot for those times.  This did three things for my family: it took the guess work out because half of cooking was deciding what to cook; it allowed the kids to see what was in store for the week; and lastly, my shopping list was made as I bought only what I needed for each meal. No more missing ingredients…no more walking aimlessly through the aisles trying to come up with dinner solutions in my head…and no more overspending on things I bought “just in case.”

I came up with menus that were a combination of healthy foods, old standbys (yes, macaroni and cheese often doubled as a veggie) and some desserts as well. Over time that menu was iconic on our refrigerator and the children absolutely loved it. I most remember my son exclaiming to his 7th grade football coach, “Coach, we gotta get out here…we have beef tips on the menu tonight!”

I have a sample menu below to get you started and of course, you will know what your family likes so you can taper the menu. I always try to have something everyone likes on the menu. Good luck!

Sunday: Grilled barbecue chicken tenderloins, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn on the cob, rolls and brownies.

Monday: Ham steaks (broiled in the oven with honey and brown sugar glaze), mac and cheese, steamed broccoli, carrots and sliced cucumbers.

Tuesday: (Crock pot night) Beef tips, rice, green bean casserole and low fat chocolate pudding.

Wednesday: (Church night so had to be quick) Baked chicken nuggets, baked French fries, broccoli with cheese sauce and applesauce.

Thursday: (Crock pot night) Pot roast with potatoes and carrots, green beans and rolls.

Friday: Poppyseed chicken casserole, green beans, mac and cheese and Rice Krispie treats (homemade not out of a box).

Saturday: Grilled steak and chicken (some like one, some like the other), salad, baked potatoes, baked beans and fruit salad.

Other menu items that rotated included spaghetti, lasagna, chicken pot pie, meatloaf,vegetable soup, taco soup, potato soup, squash and other seasonal veggies, apple cake, and chocolate chip cookies.

Becky Beall is an area freelance writer and blogger for Birmingham Parent. 

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