Streamlined Meals

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Is everyday meal planning becoming more of a chore? It’s not quite as easy to put some burgers or chicken on the grill and there seems to be even less time for preparing a meal between car pools and meetings. So here are a few tips to streamline your meal planning efforts to last you throughout the long winter.

Planning
Next Sunday take some time out with the whole family and decide on your top 10 favorite menus. In fact, most people do not eat more than 10 basic meals on a regular basis, so plan your menus around what your family enjoys most. These basic meals are also likely to be some of the simplest meals you prepare.

Make it fun. Hand out a sheet of paper where everyone can write their 10 favorite meals – including the entrée, starch, and vegetable. Older children can help younger ones fill in their choices. Be flexible: there will be some nights where pizza will share the table with potato chips but the meal can still be nutritionally balanced with a green salad.

As everyone chooses their favorite foods, this can be a great time for them to choose their favorite jobs as well: setting the table, clearing the table, doing the dishes, making lunches for the next day, etc. At your family meeting have a list of each person’s weekly activities – this will help everyone know who is available to do what and when – and it will save arguments and frustration later.

Preparation
Try preparing a few basic meals on the weekend to freeze for the busy week ahead. Meatloaf, stew, homemade soups, and casseroles are good freezing options for quick preparation.

Involve your children in meal preparation during the week. It may take you a little bit longer to get the food on the table, but it gives you a great chance to spend time with your child – a natural time to open up and share what is in his mind and heart in addition to the practical benefits of teaching nutritional and cooking basics.

Set a regular dinnertime at least four days a week. Making this a family ritual also serves to simplify mealtime by eliminating many meal “shifts” in the kitchen. It may take a few weeks to create the pattern but with some effort it can work. Eventually everyone in your family will look forward to dinner as a wonderful time to slow down and share their day with one another.

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