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If so, I’m guessing that tackling meal-time is high on your list of challenges. The end of the day is chaotic in nearly every household, and the phrase “what’s for dinner?” can send your stress level through the roof. Meal planning can help to calm the chaos, improve your family’s health, and turn meal-time into an enjoyable family activity. Try these tips for getting started:
1. Find out Favorites
Do a quick family poll about everyone’s favorite dinner. Everything is fair game when it comes to this question. Pancakes? Tacos? Ice Cream? Write down any and all answers that you hear. As you give the question some thought, jot down the meals that you come back to time & time again. In our house, homemade macaroni and cheese, bean burritos, and burgers with sweet fries are the menu items that appear in frequent rotation.
2. Categorize your List
Now that you have your list of favorite dishes, decide on how you’d like to categorize them. You might want to focus on main ingredient – chicken, beef, seafood, vegetables. If you find that time is really the deciding factor when planning, then categorize your list by prep time. You may also want to categorize by cooking method – creating special categories for baking, crock pot, and grill.
3. Create a Recipe File
Gather all those index cards, magazine clippings, and printed pages. I find that the easiest way to organize recipes is to fill a 3-ring binder with page protectors. Each recipe can slide into a page protector, and I can easily pull out the page that I need – and not have to worry about spills! Separate your binder into categories that make sense for you – type of recipe, prep time, etc.
4. Make Meal Cards
You can create your own tags from cardstock, or make this super easy by using shipping tags from your local office supply store. Use your Fiskars tools to add color-coordinated borders to each tag – using a different color for each category that you created in step 2. Now write one dish on each tag. On the flip side of the tag, jot down the key ingredients.Create a few “wild cards” as well – perhaps Take Out, Fend 4 Yourself, or New Recipe. Use a binder clip to hold the tags together.
5. Organize your Week
At the beginning of each week, sit down with your Meal Cards. If you’ve categorized by “type,” choose 7 entrees and 7 sides. If you’ve categorized by prep time, take a look at what activities are planned for the week, and choose cards based on your schedule. You can even turn this step into a game with your kids – they can choose one card each, and decide on a family meal. As you choose your meals for the week, jot down what items you’ll need to purchase. Transfer the week’s tags to their own binder clip, and hang them somewhere handy in the kitchen. Now on busy nights, you’ll just have to flip through your tags and choose a meal!