It’s no secret that creating a regular meal plan is one of the more time and budget-saving steps we can take in the kitchen. Sometimes, though, it’s easy to get hung up on the details while efficiency flies out the window. When I’m on my game, menu planning looks something like this in our family.
Use it up.
A quick glance at the contents of the refrigerator and freezer are telling. What’s in there that needs to be used up right away? Food waste is a sneaky expense that packs a powerful punch. Find a way to use up those leftovers! Here are a few of our favorite “leftover makeovers.”
- Make French Toast from day-old Easy French Bread.
- Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas and Monterey Ranch Quesadillas are fast fixes for leftover chicken.
- Turn last night’s baked potatoes into this morning’s homemade hashbrowns.
This summer we’re participating in our first ever local CSA. Each week we’ll pick up a box of fresh produce. The contents will be a complete surprise, and the use it up mentality will be at the forefront of my menu planning mind, as many of our meals will revolve around what’s in the box.
Value The Regulars.
Fast, easy, and inexpensive. Family favorites. No brainers. It’s important to keep staples on hand for the go-to meals you love. In fact, I feel most secure when I have a quick fix stashed in the freezer at all times. Whether it’s a busy night on the calendar or one of those days, it pays to have the following at the ready:
Eat by Theme.
Weekly theme nights provide some regularity to spur creativity and prevent the brain freeze that menu planning can sometimes bring. Something like this might work:
- Mexican Flare Monday~ Smothered Beans and Rice Burritos and Loaded Tostadas are family favorites.
- Meat and Potatoes Tuesday ~ Bring on the comfort food! We enjoy Mini Meatloaf Mounds and Cheesy Potato Casserole.
- Meatless Wednesday ~ Breakfast for Dinner is always a winner. Try Homemade Waffles or Fruity Oatmeal Pancakes.
- Sandwiches and Finger Foods Thursday ~ This is also a great meal for using up odds and ends crowding the fridge. Remember also that sandwiches don’t have to be fixed on bread! Try quesadillas or wraps for variety.
- Homemade Pizza Friday ~ Switch up toppings and you have a “new” meal every week. Add in a game or movie for a fun family night.
Have you found new recipes that look delish? Like to experiment? Feel free to toss a new recipe or two into the rotation, and have fun with it, but avoid loading the week with them. Sometimes new-to-you food can be more time intensive than expected, and the family may rebel at too much new in one week.
As we enter the summer season I’m refreshing my menu planning strategies and planning for smooth sailing! How do you best plan to eat?
A former middle school teacher for eight years, Amy now spends her days wrangling her family of four (soon to be five!) children in a tiny Kansas town and supporting her husband in his high school teaching and coaching endeavors. She believes strongly that the the best things in life aren’t things, and encourages others (and herself!) to Embrace the Extraordinary in Every Day at her blog, The Finer Things in Life.
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