Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Menu Planning Has Saved Family Dinner

It is no secret that meal time at our house can be quite a dramatic event. I have a 10 year old who might be the pickiest eater on the planet. He has anxiety every night about what we will be eating the next day. In addition to that, we lead a very busy and active life. Throw into the mix four kids going in four different directions with track practice, baseball/softball practice and David and I working full time and me trying to plan a wedding.

So, to combat some of the stress and chaos of dinner, I have started menu planning. I haven't done it to save money (I'm horrible at saving money at the grocery store), but more so to have a solid plan to go by each week and so there are no questions as to what we will be eating each night.

We have a dry erase board in the kitchen and I have utilized this to write down the days of the week and list what the main course will be each night. This helps with the dinnertime anxiety issue.

It's super easy to make your own dry erase board. Check out this easy DIY.

I always try to sit down and plan out the weeks menu on Friday evening or Saturday morning. I use Cozi to make my grocery list. I love using Cozi because it automatically syncs to my phone and I have my grocery list on hand when it's time to go shopping.

When planning my meals I try to keep a couple of things in mind:

  • is it healthy (or semi-healthy in our case)
  • will the majority of the family eat it or try it (if it's a new recipe)
  • how easy will it be to prepare and how long will it take to cook

I try to include at least two crock pot meals a week. These work really well for us because I can put it on in the morning and when I get home, all I have to worry about is throwing together a couple of side dishes. I always try to do one fun thing a week that I know everyone will like. Recently we've started doing 'make your own' pizzas. It is just as easy to do as throwing a frozen one in the oven and I feel like it's a healthier option. I also like to try one new recipe a week. Then we decide if it's a 'keeper' or not.

This 3 packet roast recipe for the crock pot is a huge hit at my house. Find the recipe here.

 To be very honest, most of my recipes over the last month have come straight from my Pinterest board. I'm always looking for and pinning dinner ideas that seem like something our family would enjoy. It also makes it so much easier when menu planning, because all your recipes are in one place. I have tons and tons of cookbooks, but it seems like it takes more time to go through them looking for ideas and then making a grocery list.

This Pizza Casserole is a fun alternative to frozen pizzas.

So far the menu board has worked out well. It's taken a lot of the dramatics out of dinnertime. Even if there is something on the board my picky eater doesn't like, he doesn't really fuss as much as he once was. Maybe it's because he's able to mentally prepare himself. Who knows, I have yet to figure out the mind of a 10 year old.

Do you menu plan with your family? If so, how do you do it? Are you following my Family Night Dinner board yet? I've got some kid approved recipes on there!


  1. I really really really really need to start menu planning! With the mister hopefully starting school in the Fall, our schedules are going to be so completely crazy. I see planning ahead being a must for us, to help with the budget & time management.

  2. I've started menu planning in the last month or so as well. It's been a pretty positive change. We eat less fast food/things from boxes and are actually *cooking* more. I try to do one crock pot meal a week, and for the rest we usually try 2 or 3 new recipes from my cooking mags or our cookbooks, and then a tried-and-true one we love. Seems to be working pretty well so far. :)

  3. Meal planning always saves us money too and helps me eat healthier! I love crockpot meals too!

  4. I just made that same pizza casserole this week and my family loved it! Plus, that is the same recipe I use for my roast too! :)