Tonight's dinner featuring stovetop mac and cheese
Image by She Who Shall Not Be Named via Flickr

If you’ve been around this blog for a while you know that we’re big fans of the ladies over at Dine Without Whine – the family meal planning experts. Click HERE for a free sample meal plan from them. This article helps to see the benefits of making a family meal plan. Enjoy!

Like many families, you may feel the effects of a slowing economy. You may be searching for ways to save money and time. Think of making a menu plan – it’s a great way to save time and money in the kitchen.

Creating nutritious meals day in and day out may be tiresome. If you start with a menu plan, you can make weekly meals your family will love. Here are some things to consider about creating menu plans:

* A menu plan allows you to create a focused grocery shopping list. Knowing what you need for each meal keeps you from racing through the grocery store trying to find something for dinner.

* A menu plan also allows you to save time in the kitchen. By knowing what you need, you know you have everything in place before beginning to make the meal.

* You can make a menu plan for one week, two weeks, or more. Keep each week’s menu plan and you can take notes on them about which ones the family liked, which ones they’d rather never eat again, and changes to side dishes that might be better.

* Putting together a meal plan can be a great way to feed your family a meal they’ll love as well as end your family’s hectic day on a peaceful note.

Now you know how making a menu plan can save you time and money in the kitchen. If you’ve never made a menu plan before, you may like to learn. Here are some easy steps you may want to follow when making your first one; you may want your family’s help.

1. Make a list of all the main dishes your family enjoys; don’t forget anything. It won’t matter how neat the list is, it’s just to get the ideas down on paper.

2. Try to write down the amount of time needed to prepare each dish. You may want to mark dishes that take considerably longer than 30 minutes to prepare, not counting cooking time, so you can save those for days you have more time.

3. Put each main dish into categories such as Mexican, Italian, Sandwiches, Soups and Salads, or Casseroles.

4. Decide which day you’ll do your shopping. Many people do all of their grocery shopping on Saturday. You may want to have leftovers on Friday night to make shopping day easier.

5. Check your calendar and look to see if there are any really busy days. Plan on having soup and salads on that night.

6. Fill in the rest of the calendar with a category. Determine which category of food you’ll have each night and then plan on having that category of dish every week on the same day.

7. After you have your categories planned, now it’s time to look through your cupboards to see which ingredients you already have and which ingredients you need to purchase. You can create your focused shopping list based on the ingredients you need for the meals on your meal plan.

8. Be flexible. Plans change, people stop over, or meetings are called. By having a meal plan, you can choose to switch meals from one day to another and still know you have everything you need.

Menu planning can make meal time much easier for your family. Look at these suggestions and use those you find helpful. Then get out some paper, a pen, and your calendar and make your own meal plan – a great way to save time and money in the kitchen.

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