There is no disputing the fact that research proves the benefit of family meals. Families that eat together tend to have better-eating habits are eating healthier foods (less sodium and processed foods) and do a better job with self-regulating what they eat by slowing down. This results in less overeating caused by eating too fast on the go. Data shows benefits in children being more likely to try new foods and eat more fruits and vegetables. Overall, families who eat together have better communication and studies show children tend to better at school so I consider this one of the most important things families can do together.
I realize the effort is real to have a home cooked meal for your family every night. I work with many busy families that struggle to have family meals nightly, mainly due to busy schedules, long work hours and lack of planning. However, dinner together doesn’t mean a 5-course meal that took hours to prepare. It can easily be a taco bar of everyone’s favorite topping, a chili that was put in the crockpot that morning or a roasted chicken picked up on the way home to serve with salad and pasta. To make the whole process easier, it does take some initial planning and teamwork. I have compiled my list of tips to make meal planning easier for families, consisting of a monthly meal calendar that can be repeated, making small adjustments each month.
10 Tips to Make Meal Planning Easier
1) Have a preferred way to collect recipes.
Notebook, Pinterest, Apps (paprika)
2) Spend time looking for recipes, get inspiration.
Pinterest, magazines, newspaper, internet
3) Start a calendar, write it down or print it out for your notebook.
Google calendar, paper calendar
4) Have a theme night.
Taco Tuesday, Soup night (winter), Pasta night, BBQ
5) Coordinate ingredients each week to save money.
Have roasted chicken one night and then using the leftover chicken in an enchilada casserole later in the week or chicken noodle soup.
6) Allow for fast and easy when busier.
Take-out, pick up grilled chicken, leftovers, eggs/toast.
7) Solicit help with recipe ideas, food prep, and shopping.
Older children, husband, grocery shopping service, meal delivery service
Meal delivery (Blue apron, Sun Basket)
8) Choose a shopping day, make a list for a week of planned meals.
Better yet, order groceries online for delivery or pick-up the next day.
9) Plan for leftovers and be strategic about freezing.
Double recipes of soups, casseroles, and freeze for a future meal, have a leftover night.
10) Keep your pantry well-stocked and plant an herb garden.
Makes shopping easier and meal prep quicker
The most important part is to remove distractions for 30 minutes to sit down and eat with your family and enjoy. Once you’ve planned a month of meals, it’s easier to repeat the rotation with a few adjustments for the following month. What makes meal planning easier for your family?