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Plan a Months of Meals that Your Family Will Eat

by Pam Molnar

The New Year gives mom a chance to hit the reset button. For me, it is the time of year that I tell myself that I will make time to plan out our dinners in advance, shop for everything at one time and serve a healthy meal every night. That usually lasts a week before I am throwing my hands up and ordering a pizza.

I know I am not alone when I say I am both intrigued and aggravated by the bloggers who share their monthly meal plans. In theory, they are amazingly planned out with a shopping list and sometimes a nutritional chart. However, when I start looking at some of the recipes, I realize that my family of picky eaters will only eat half of the dinners suggested.

This year I decided to come up with a plan that my family would eat. Here are some suggestions to plan a month of meals that your family will eat.

Start by making a list of the family go-to meals.
How many times do you make them each month? For my family, I found I make eight family favorites two times a month, which satisfies 16 days. Next, make a list of meals that you make only once a month like a ham, roast or something that takes several hours to cook. Then, add in simple, quick meals that can be cooked in 15 minutes like Panini’s or omelets. Finally, choose a few crockpot meals or bag and dump dinners that your family enjoys.

Create a calendar of sorts on your table or countertop using post it notes.
Write each dinner on a separate post it note and start putting in order on the calendar. As you put your days together, be realistic about your family’s schedule. If you will be occupied from 3:00 to 6:00, don’t plan to start a dinner that takes hours to prepare. When you lay out your calendar, plan meals with similar ingredients in the same week to avoid waste. For example, if two recipes use ½ can of tomato paste, put those meals next to each other on the calendar.

Make a shopping list for the entire month.
Shop for all non-perishable items at one time and shop weekly for fresh produce or dairy. Meat can be purchased and frozen or purchased fresh weekly. As you see a pattern forming for your staples, pick up a few extra ones at the store. With the unpredictable schedules of my teenagers and their friends, I like to keep extra items like frozen burgers or extra packages of rice or pasta to supplement a meal if we have extra guests.

Leave some flexibility in your schedule.
If you know one of the nights will be too busy to cook, plan a leftover night by making a double batch the night before. If your son has karate lessons that end at 6:00 and the dojo is right next to the take-out Chinese, plan that into your menu. Also, if there is a great sale going on at the store one week, feel free to adjust your plan. For example, this summer the cost of eggs dropped drastically in my area. As a result, we had breakfast for dinner a few nights in place of our regularly planned meals.

Consider cooking a week of meals one night.
While I have yet to master this, many busy moms spend one long afternoon chopping, mixing and cooking their family dinner for the whole week. It is a great time saver to make dinner when you have the time instead of during the busy after school rush. You can put more than one kind of meat on the grill, chop all veggies for the week’s menu, or make soups, casseroles and sauces to freeze for later.

With dinner plans already taken care of, you will now have time to help with homework, play a game with the kids or just put your feet up and relax.


17 Things You Can Make With Rotisserie Chicken

Every grocery store has a grab and go rotisserie chicken area. Most offer side options and bread to complete the meal. While this is another alternative to carry out food, you can use the rotisserie chicken as a way to speed up the “home cooked” meal at your house. Try these options:

1. Shred chicken for fajitas

2. Add to pasta or green salads

3. Mix with mayo, celery, and hard boiled eggs to make a quick chicken salad sandwich

4. Roll up in wraps for a warm weather option

5. Add to rice, eggs and soy sauce for a quick chicken fried rice

6. Cut up for a great addition to soup

7. Mix with Red Hot and top with blue cheese and crunchy slaw for a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

8. Place on a pita, add tomato, onion and Tzatziki sauce for Chicken Gyros.

9. Create a simple white pizza with chicken, mozzarella, garlic and herbs

10. Create a chicken pot pie by mixing with frozen veggies and baking in a pie shell

11. Use in any casserole recipe that calls for cooked chicken

12. Make a white chili with navy beans, white corn, sour cream and chicken broth

13. Mix with black beans, jicama and cilantro for a quick chicken taco

14. Stuff green peppers with a combination of chicken, beans, rice and tomatoes

15. Make chicken and dumplings

16. Press chicken, pesto, mozzarella cheese and tomatoes between Italian bread for a quick Panini

17. Add BBQ sauce to make Chicken Sliders

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