Summer is winding down and soon kids will be back in school. Are you stressing about weeknight meals? Don’t! Follow some of our easy menu planning tips to reduce mealtime mayhem. Start with this helpful advice from Create Better Health and USU Extension:
1. Schedule a time that would work for you to plan your weekly menu. Make sure it is realistic, when you will have a few minutes to dedicate to the task.
2. Plan your menu around food items you already have on hand. This will not only make your grocery bill less, but also use up products before they spoil.
3. Choose a variety of meals that include family favorites, budget stretchers, and quick-fix meals. One amazing resource is the MyPlate Kitchen. You can view recipes, videos, and create your own online cookbook.
4. Cook once, eat twice. Plan to use your leftovers. Putting leftovers into your menu plan will reduce the amount you have to cook and reduce the amount of food waste.
5. Picture your plate as you plan each meal. Remember to include veggies and fruits in the menu. Ideally half the plate will include vegetables and fruits, a quarter of the plate will have grains, and the other quarter will have protein. With a glass on the side for dairy, you will have all the food groups suggested by MyPlate.
6. Have the local store circulars available when you are planning. Always take advantage of sales on products you know you will use.
7. Create a thorough shopping list.
Use this handy Grocery Shopping Packet to assure you have a successful trip to the store.
Once you’ve started to master menu planning basics, try some additional ideas to make it a breeze.
- Try a two-to-four-week cycle menu. You can use the same basic menu, switching up a few ingredients or side dishes to offer variety. See a two-week sample menu below. Click on the recipe name to view the full recipe.
- Many families have “theme nights”. Try Taco Tuesdays or have breakfast for dinner every Saturday.
- Don’t forget about leftover nights! Plan these on busier days when you don’t have a lot of time to cook.
- Be flexible. It’s OK to have YOYO (you’re on your own) nights sometimes, too. Kids may especially enjoy this time to experiment in the kitchen and make their own creations.
Put these tips into play, and you’ll be a mealtime master in no time. You might as well master a delicious dessert while you’re at it. Scrumptious Strawberry Sherbet truly lives up to its name.
On a night when you have a little extra time, create a fruity dessert. The recipe calls for frozen strawberries. A bag of frozen strawberries will do the trick, or if you have fresh on hand simply wash and trim them, and pop them into the freezer a few hours before you make your sherbet. Enjoy!
Candi Merritt and Becky Egli
Certified Nutrition Education Ambassadors