Menu planning can seem intimidating, and I get it. Here is the thing though, it doesn’t have to be. Menu planning is a plan that suites YOU and YOUR family. Here are a couple of simple ground rules I try to follow. Just keep in mind there is no right or wrong way to menu plan and if something works for me, it might not work for you. However I do hope you find my tips helpful, but tweak whatever you need to.
Just so you know, I’ve linked some products and or ingredients I believe in and use myself, however I could collect a percentage of sales. At Mommy Spice we’re all a team in making meals and staying on budget and I hope you love the things I recommend as much as I do.
- #1. Keep it simple! Every week night does not need to be some new innovative meal. Probably a little weird coming from a foodie who loves to cook, however it’s the truth. Don’t make grand expectations for a Tuesday just to fail and feel bad. Save yourself the trouble, we mamas (and daddies) work hard enough. Fed is best, it’s not just a breast/bottle feeding statement, it’s true. Keep the meals easy, especially when you first start menu planning.
- #2. Plan ahead, if you work M-F menu planning and grocery shopping has to happen on the weekend. I love a good cup of coffee and my trusty notepad on a Sunday morning. I know planning and grocery shopping on the weekend may be crowded and a little unpleasant, but I’ve got a tip for that too. Earbuds! No seriously! I make a kick butt playlist and head to the store with my list. Might seem a little antisocial, however it makes a busy crowded shopping experience more pleasant.
- #3. Have a back up plan. Be sure to look at your schedule that week. I have an elementary school kid, a preschooler and a baby who is rapidly entering toddlerhood. Everyone has different things going on, even before entering my husband and myself into the equation. Family fun night at elementary school? Picture day at preschool? Toddler teething? We got this! A few staple, back up, kid approved meals will save the day. A few of my kid approved favorites will be posted below.
- #4. Make it fun, get the kids involved, or your spouse. Take requests for dinner ideas. I always say the more involved my kids are in the process the more willing they are to eat whatever it is we’re making. Theme days is another fun way to keep on track. Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Wacky Wednesday (new recipes or creations, silly meals) Thirsty Thursday, make a fun cocktail for the adults, you deserve some fun too. Or a green smoothie for the kids, then no veggie battles at dinner. You get the point, whatever helps you keep on track. Also if your kids start to catch on to Taco Tuesday’s they’ll help to keep you accountable to sticking to the menu.
- #5. Be kind to yourself. This is my most important “rule” of all. You deserve a big ol pat on the back for attempting menu planning. Every. Single. Week. Families are chaos, in the best way of course. However, things rarely go as planned. Having a plan you KNOW full well might fail is half the battle. So BE KIND to yourself, you’re a great parent and I’m here to help with all sorts of last minute menu ideas!
My last piece of advice is to keep a stocked fridge and pantry. This is key to menu planning and executing dinners, either planned or last minute ones. Always have lunch meat, hots dogs and cheese. A personal must for me is crescent dough, you can make giant pigs in a blanket, or quick sandwich bites. You’ll be keeping it quick and easy, but still have a nice warm agreeable dinner to serve. Frozen steamer bags of veggies are a must, this is what takes up 75% of the space in my freezer. Peas, corn, carrots, broccoli, frozen rice (white and brown) cauliflower rice, mixed veggies, veggie and rice mixture, veggies with a butter or cheese sauce. Seriously, have you taken a good look at the steamer section of your grocery store freezer lately?? They have upped their game and the options are endless!! Another personal staple, tortillas. Quesadillas, tacos, wraps, burritos, home made chips, and mini pizzas. All of those things are possible with tortillas. Let’s talk pantry now, mine usually has a few boxes of pasta, different shapes and sizes, a jar of your favorite marinara, chicken broth, soup, boxed macaroni and cheese, a few cans of tuna fish and beans. Having a stocked fridge, freezer and pantry will put you more at ease when menu planning. Knowing the options you have to fall back on takes off a good bit of stress.
- Breakfast for dinner! (Perfect for a wacky Wednesday) We always have waffles in the freezer, either for a quick breakfast or a fun dinner. Pop those babies in the toaster and add some fruit, yogurt, eggs or bacon if you’ve got it (and the time). There ya go, an easy back up kid approved dinner.
- Pizza. You can always, always, always, order a pizza. Also keeping some frozen pizzas stocked in your freezer is a good idea. I really love the refrigerated pizza dough as well for another great option. Keep some tomato sauce and cheese on hand, then get fun with your toppings. My bite size mini pizza bagels are another super quick kid and freezer friendly dinner option.
- Mac n cheese! Here’s my favorite box kind. If you’re feeling fancy, throw in some cooked chicken, broccoli and top with bread crumbs. Voila! Dinner is done, and not even a back up one, a good one. It’s easy, comes together quick and is kid approved.
There you have it, not so scary right? Also for anyone interested, the picture featured in this post is a salad recipe I’m working on perfecting to bring to you guys ASAP!