I don’t know how it works in your family but I have gone through seasons of how I feel about food… and meals… and feeding people. There have been times (usually after a new baby), that I feel like ALL I DO IS FEED PEOPLE. I feed the baby, feed the toddlers, feed myself, clean up from all that feeding, plan the next feeding, and then start over again! Then there have been times where we all sit down to dinner and I seem to be the only one eating… I look around and everyone else is staring at that green stuff like it is from some other planet.
At this current point in time my daughter is going through a growth spurt and seems to be eating anything and everything, I’m pretty sure our grocery budget doubled this week. My two toddler sons on the other hand are pickier than ever!
So lets talk about all these meals and feedings we are responsible for, and how to create the Menu.
Why is this important?
Should we start with a quiz? Lets:
- When is the best time to start thinking about what to make for dinner:
- When it is time to eat
- 5 minutes before it is time to eat
- the morning of the meal
- The day before
- The week before
- Is it cheaper to Dine in (at home) or Out?
- Will your family thrive more if everyone fends for themselves or we eat together?
- Are you more likely to make healthy eating choices when you plan ahead?
- What is the best way to control toddler emotional outbursts due to low blood sugar?
- Throw them a bag of cookies
- Get that PB&J out ASAP!
- Plan a meal before it happens
I think we all know the answers to this quiz, but that doesn’t mean we follow through with it, and how important are family meals anyway? According to “The Family Dinner Project.org“, studies have shown that families who eat meals together have many positive side affects on choices your children will make as adolescents, health factors, and even boosting vocab and family relationships. So why did our family choose to start this in the toddler years? Because we want those benefits to start early, and we don’t want it to be a fight later. If you start family meals in the toddler years your family will be used to it.
So now that we all are ready to start family meals, lets get them planned. I have gone through times where I plan a month of meals at a time, 2 weeks, and 1 week. If this is new to you I would suggest starting with 1 week at a time. Then as you adjust grocery shopping and meal planning around your schedule, adjust how many weeks you plan as needed.
I prefer to use a rotational menu to save time and headache when meal planning. There are 2 ways to start your foundation for your rotational menu:
- Plan a week of meals (this is your menu), save the plan, and build on it
- Go through all your recipes, plug them into various weeks of meals (I have 6), then rotate through the menus for each week (I also have a winter and a summer menu set)
I use my current recipes and recipe books to create my menus. My goal is to have 3-6 weeks of menus (each a week long) that I rotate through for the week (and based on winter or summer). This prevents me having to re-invent the wheel every week when I am ready to make my menu. I then print out this list and save it with my recipes. Because I like to try new recipes I “schedule” these into my menu. There are many ways to organize your menu, here are some ideas:
- Type of food for each night i.e. Monday-Italian, Tuesday-Mexican, Wed-All American etc.
- Type of Meat for each night i.e. Monday-beef, Tuesday-chicken, Wednesday-seafood etc.
- Assign special nights i.e. Monday-Soup Night, Tuesday-Formal Night, Wednesday-finger food night, Thursday-Toddler favorites
- Make it random
No matter how you decide to organize your menus or how many weeks at a time you do, make sure you take into account family events. For example, we have bible study Friday nights, I have time to prep for that meal, but it has to be a fast one to eat. Another example is Tuesdays we have ballet right before dinner, I have no prep time, so I do a crock pot meal on that day.
Now your menus are done! Whew! Let’s go through your week. If you grocery shop on Wednesdays, on Monday or Tuesday you are going to pull out your menus and shopping list. You will choose which menu you are doing for the next week, make sure you have all your ingredients and mark missing items on your shopping list. Somewhere you will post in your kitchen or dining room the menu for the week, so you remember, and your spouse will know what to expect. Now you are ready to shop, prep, cook, and eat, all because you made a plan!