Dinner is the last meal of the day and a time when families can get together and discuss their day. It is also a hectic meal for busy cooks who are just getting off of work or who have been busy with other activities all day. Here are some menu planning tips to help make dinner meals easy and even fun.
1. Schedule your meals a week in advance.
This is one of the most important planning tips for meals. Knowing what you are going to eat throughout the week means less chance that you will stop off at the closest fast food joint for a convenient, but unhealthy, meal. Decide during the previous week what the menu will be for the following week. Create your shopping list from the list of ingredients to avoid buying what you don’t need at the grocery store.
2. Look for bargains.
Read advertising circulars and the like to decide where best to shop for your menu items. If one ingredient is a common denominator in many meals consider buying in bulk to save money. Common staples like milk, eggs, bread, and sugar can be bought in bulk as well. Some stores will have double or triple coupon days when you can save even more.
3. Search online.
After a while your family will get tired of chicken and rice every Thursday. You can get into a menu rut sometimes. Use the Internet to search for new and exciting recipes. Learn to put a twist on old recipes for a new taste. You can often enter the ingredients you have available and find recipes to suit what is in your pantry.
4. Have a leftover night.
After preparing meals for five or six days, there is bound to be some food left over. Designate one night to be leftover night and let everyone mix and match for dinner.
5. Cook your meals in advance.
After deciding on a menu plan for the week go ahead and prepare as many meals as you can. Choose a day when the entire family can help like a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. Perhaps each person can take one meal and prepare it for the following week. Once everything has cooled store your meals in sealed containers or casserole dishes to be frozen until the night it is needed.
6. Do preparation in advance.
Not all of the meals can be cooked at once. Some foods just taste better freshly prepared. For these, do as much preparation as you can in advance. Enlist your kids to help cut vegetables (give them the kitchen shears), dice cooked meat, and mix together dry ingredients. On the night of the meal all that is required is to add the remaining ingredients and finish the cooking.
Meal time doesn’t have to be all on one person. The entire family can help with dinner so it is a relaxing meal for everyone.