How to Make Cooking at Home Easier and Eat Out Less

eat as a family

You've probably heard a thousand times that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially for little ones. While a hearty breakfast may provide our children with enough energy to last throughout a day filled with fun activities, an evening dinner with the family is just as significant. A healthy dinner helps revitalize our children after a day at school or elsewhere, and helps prepare them for extra homework or nighttime activities, or even a restful sleep to get them ready for the next day.

While dinner may be an important meal, it is often difficult to cook a healthy meal ahead of time, certainly when all members of the family have busy schedules of their own. A jam-packed itinerary throughout the week doesn’t meal you can’t follow a few simple steps to plan ahead beforehand. In fact, with these easy family menu ideas, you can ensure you have everything you need each day of the week to create a delicious dinner for the whole family.

When In Doubt, Plan Five Easy Meals

Perhaps the easiest way to begin the process of planning for a week of family menu ideas is by picking five meals to eat every day of the week. And while it may sound enticing to crack open a gourmet cookbook and select five exotic selections, this will probably not work if you have a busy schedule. Instead, the weekend before, pick five trusted menu items that the entire family loves to eat, and that don’t take more than 30 minutes to prepare. This way everyone can know what’s being served on a given day of the week, and you won’t have to work extremely hard to create the food for the family.

Make sure to follow the US Government's Choose My Plate guide to ensure that you are giving your kids all the nutrients they need to thrive. The website has recipes and tips on cooking healthy on a budget.

Get Everything on Sunday – and Make Sure You Plan for that as Well

Once you have your five daily meals planned for the upcoming week, begin to put your plan in motion by heading to the grocery store to get everything that you need. It may be smart to grab a few extra ingredients for more of a given meal in case you have a friend over for dinner, or in case someone happens to be extra hungry.

Instead of heading to the grocery store with a simple list, make a plan for how you will tackle the task at hand. Split the list into sections for each family member; for example, you can have separate lists for produce, meat/fish/chicken/eggs, pantry items, and miscellaneous. Shopping this way allows everyone in the family to participate in the process and will help ensure that you are finished in a shorter amount of time. You may want to also ensure that everyone has had a snack before, nothing blows your grocery budget like shopping while hungry.

Stick to the Plan and Plan for off days

Now that you have your five daily meals planned ahead, and your kitchen is fully stocked with everything that you could possibly need to create delicious meals, you are ready to go. However, one of the most difficult things to accomplish is the ultimate decision to stick to the plan that you made for you and your family. There may be certain situations, however, in which it’s almost necessary to change the plan; for example, if some of your ingredients have gone bad, or if you get stuck at work late and you don’t have any time to cook. Also, sometimes you just don't feel like cooking.

In these cases consider making an easy meal that will only take a few minutes to prepare. Sandwiches, soup, omelets, and frozen meals are all good ideas when you just can't.

Cook Ahead

With a busy schedule, soccer, hockey, homework, music lessons, and more, cooking dinner at home is tough. When you know you won't have a lot of time to make dinner, consider using a slow cooker to make a meal that will be ready as soon as you get home. Hearty and healthy dinners like stews, chilis, and soups are perfect for the crock pot. Throw the ingredients in there in the morning and come home to a healthy dinner.

Another thing you can do is double up on some meals that you are making and then when they are cooked freeze half. You can freeze lasagna, spaghetti sauce, pizza dough, and more. Then when you need a dinner, pull it out of the freezer and bake or cook until hot.

How to Create a Family Menu Planner – Simple Steps to Get Started

Dinner is absolutely one of the most important meals of the day, and creating a family dinner planner can help ensure you have everything you need for healthy meals throughout the week. So don’t wait to get started; try these simple steps to get ready for the week and cook delicious meals every night.

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