Family Meal Planning: Ten Steps to Simplify Your Life and Nourish Your Loved Ones
Family meal planning can be an overwhelming task, especially if you have a large family with different dietary needs and preferences. However, meal planning can save you time, money, and stress in the long run. It can also help you ensure that your family is eating nutritious, well-balanced meals. In this guide, we will discuss how to manage meal planning by calendaring what is coming up during the next week. We will cover ideas for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner/supper for a family with parents, children, and grandparents who are active at work, school, sports, travel, and outside recreation.
Step 1: Check your pantry and fridge
Before you start planning your meals, take a look at what you already have in your pantry and fridge. Check for foods that need to be used up soon, as these can be incorporated into your meal plan. This will also help you avoid buying unnecessary items at the grocery store.
Step 2: Plan for the week ahead
Once you have an idea of what you already have, it’s time to start planning your meals for the week ahead. This involves calendaring what is coming up during the next week. Take into consideration any work or school commitments, sports or extracurricular activities, and any travel plans that you may have. This will help you plan meals that are easy to prepare and can be enjoyed on the go if needed.
Step 3: Plan for breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it’s important to ensure that everyone in the family starts the day with a nutritious meal. Think of simple things to stock for breakfast, especially if your family is on the go with work and school. Some ideas include oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, smoothies, and fruit. If you have more time in the mornings, you can prepare pancakes, waffles, or scrambled eggs.
Step 4: Plan for lunch
Lunch can be a challenging meal to plan for, especially if you are packing lunches for work or school. It’s important to ensure that your family is eating a nutritious and balanced meal to keep them going throughout the day. Some easy lunch ideas include sandwiches, wraps, salads, and soups. You can also make extra servings of dinner the night before to pack for lunch the next day.
Step 5: Plan for snacks
Snacks are important to keep your family energized throughout the day. Keep simple snacks on hand like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. You can also make your own trail mix by combining nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Other ideas for snacks include hummus and veggies, cheese and crackers, and yogurt with granola.
Step 6: Plan for dinner/supper
Dinner/supper is the meal where you can put more planning and effort into. This is a meal that you can sit down and enjoy as a family. It’s important to ensure that your family is eating a nutritious and balanced meal. Some ideas for dinner/supper include:
- Sheet pan dinners: These are easy to prepare and can be customized to your family’s preferences. Simply choose your protein, vegetables, and seasoning, and bake everything on a sheet pan in the oven.
- Slow cooker meals: These are perfect for busy days when you don’t have time to prepare dinner. Simply put all the ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning, and by dinnertime, you’ll have a delicious meal ready to eat.
- One-pot meals: These are easy to prepare and require minimal cleanup. Some examples include pasta dishes, stir-fries, and casseroles.
- Grilled meals: Grilling is a great way to cook healthy meals while enjoying the outdoors. Grilled vegetables, chicken, and fish are all great options for a healthy and delicious dinner.
- Meal prep: Meal prepping can help you save time during the week and ensure that your family is eating healthy meals. Prepare ingredients or entire meals in advance so that you can easily assemble meals throughout the week.
Step 7: Check grocery ads and make a list
Before heading to the grocery store, it’s a good idea to check the grocery ads in the newspaper or download them from the store’s website or app. This can help you save money on groceries and plan meals around what’s on sale. Make a list of the items you need to buy for the week ahead, and stick to your list when shopping to avoid buying unnecessary items.
Step 8: Keep a list of family favorites
Keep a list of your family’s favorite meals and snacks, and incorporate them into your meal planning. This can help ensure that everyone is happy with the meals you are preparing, and can also save you time and stress when planning meals.
Step 9: Plan to have leftovers
Leftovers can be a lifesaver when it comes to meal planning. When you are making dinner/supper, plan to make extra servings so that you have leftovers for lunch the next day or for another dinner later in the week. This can help save you time and money, and also ensure that your family is eating nutritious meals throughout the week.
Step 10: Be flexible
Meal planning is not an exact science, and it’s important to be flexible and adaptable. If plans change during the week, adjust your meal plan accordingly. If you end up with more leftovers than you anticipated, incorporate them into the next day’s meal. Being flexible can help you avoid wasting food and ensure that your family is eating healthy and delicious meals throughout the week.
Family meal planning can be a daunting task, but it’s an important part of ensuring that your family is eating nutritious and well-balanced meals. By calendaring what is coming up during the next week, checking your pantry and fridge, planning for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner/supper, checking grocery ads, keeping a list of family favorites, planning to have leftovers, and being flexible, you can make meal planning a breeze. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can save time, money, and stress, and ensure that your family is eating healthy and delicious meals all week long.