- Family meal planning can be healthier, tastier, time-saving, money-saving, and less stressful
- Family menu planning means figuring out what your family will eat for the whole week rather than on a day to day basis.
- Compared to going to buy groceries without any list or plan, family menu planning can save you a lot of money and can work well for families on a budget.
Family Diet And Menu Planning
If you have a family, then you know how stressful choosing what to make for dinner each night can be. Not only is it a big undertaking to cook for more than one person, but more often than not, everyone in the family has different tastes. Eating the same foods over and over can get boring, and it’s always easy to err on the side of being unhealthy. We’ve all been there.
We’ve all had this problem. Some of us, many times - every weeknight! The solution? A family meal plan.
A family meal plan is exactly what it sounds like. A plan written out that details what’s for dinner each night. This way, every member of the family knows what to expect and, eventually, can have a say in what gets made.
Benefits of family diet and menu planning
- It’s healthier
- By planning out what you’re going to eat before the night is upon you, there’s less temptation to order a pizza or whip up a box of mac and cheese.
- It tastes better!
- Thought-out food always tastes better than something made on the fly.
- It saves time
- Gone are the indecisive hours spent volleying back and forth, unable to choose what’s for dinner.
- It saves money
- More food cooked at home = less money spent on takeout.
- It’s way less stressful
- Everyone knows what it’s like to argue with family about dinner. Needless to say, it’s not fun. The less arguing, the better!
What is meal planning?
While we’ve all heard the term, many people don’t know the answer to the question: ‘what is meal planning?’ The answer is simple, really. It’s about figuring out what to eat for the whole week rather than leaving the decision to 6pm every night, when everyone is already ‘hangry.’
Steps of meal planning
Just like the concept of meal planning itself, the steps are pretty simple, too.
- Figure out what foods everyone wants to eat
- Make shopping list with said foods (complete with a budget)
- While you can plan depending on schedule, easiest to do once a week. This keeps things predictable and routine.
- Keep a list of foods that everyone likes. (Once in a while, try a new recipe! If it’s a home run, add it to the list of classics.)
- Go shopping once a week
- Have dinner ingredients ready for the rest of week
- Dinner is a good place to start, but it's about more than just planning dinner. You can also plan breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks
- Keep grocery list for staple foods
Importance Of Meal Planning For Family
A meal plan for a family of 4 doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, it can even be fun - something collaborative that everyone can work on together. Creating a healthy meal plan for the week might even turn into a fun Sunday night tradition. By creating the plan together, you can create a kid-friendly meal plan complete with a shopping list.
What are the factors to consider when planning meals? There are plenty. Take consistency, for one. It’s an important core value for families to have, especially when it comes to children. When kids know what to expect, they thrive in their environment. And, in reality, consistency never hurt an adult, either!
Along with consistency, there’s a long list of benefits of family meal planning.
- The food is healthier, and when cooked right, healthy food tastes better
- You can control the ingredients when you cook your food at home, in your own kitchen
- It ensures everyone has a well-balanced diet
- You can control portion sizes to avoid over- or under-eating
- Family time during meals is integral to growing up right. Eating at the table at the end of the day is a great tradition to start and keep
- Seeing their parents fully utilize the kitchen teaches kids how to prepare meals
- It’s cheaper than eating out
- You can save money on the food budget when you know exactly what you’re going to the store to buy - buy only what you need for the weekly plan
- Gone are the days of having to stress about deciding what to cook at the last minute
- Proactive plans provide a better variety of meals
Healthy Family Meal Planning
Healthy family meal planning ensures a balanced diet for every member of the family. It’s guaranteed, because you know what everyone is eating - which is basically the same thing all around the table.
Rather than impulse buying while at the store, picking things off the shelves that sound good in the moment, shop with intention. Make it a point to get a variety of healthy foods that are specifically written on your grocery list.
Pro tip: It helps to think of such a list when you aren’t hungry! We all know what a disaster it can be to go to the grocery store with a growling stomach, and making the list is no different.
In order to create a balanced diet menu for a week, it’s helpful to get input from your family members on what fruits and vegetables sound good to them, and what greenery they are willing to eat (or try) that particular week. A healthy meal plan for a family of 4 should have a lot of variety - the last thing you want is for anyone to get bored.
You also don’t want anyone in the family to feel restricted. Don’t make healthy family meal planning sound like a chore or a punishment. Instead, put a positive lens on the experience. Allow your child to feel like they’re contributing to the family by offering options. It’s never a good idea to force someone into it - if they aren’t interested at first, don’t worry. They’ll see the draw before long.
Family Meal Planning On A Budget
It’s unrealistic to think that everyone can head to the grocery store with a bottomless wallet. For most of us, that isn’t the case. We have constraints and certain limits in which we should stay, and that’s understandable. And, of course, weekly meal plans on a budget are very possible.
There are lots of options for free family meal plans that you can download online - there are endless resources out there. For example, check out Momables for kid-friendly, weekly meal plans that will make the whole family happy. If you find it too difficult to come up with dinner ideas on your own, they have plenty of downloadable resources. There’s also options that come from 100 Days of Real Food that cut out any and all processed foods, and these meals easily feed families of four. And from Fav Family Recipes, you can get plans that come complete with complimentary recipes - this way, you can make great meals you’ve never cooked before with a step-by-step guide.
To feed a family of 4 for $100 a week might seem daunting, but it shouldn’t. None of this has to be intimidating. By creating a family meal plan, you can actually budget much better than if you were to go to the store empty-handed and devoid of any ideas. When you go with a meal plan, you already know how much you’ll spend and, therefore, it’s easier to stick to the budget.
Weekly Meal Plan
The weekly meal plan is the easiest option for meal planning. It’s natural to run out of food by the weekend, and Sunday is the perfect day for grocery shopping to get everything prepared for the week ahead. On this final, relaxing day of the weekend, you can get your mind straight and confer with your family to figure out a healthy weekly meal plan.
By utilizing the meal plan for the week, you can buy fresh ingredients on Sunday and make sure to use them before they go bad. If you were to go by a schedule with longer intervals in-between, the option of fresh fruits and vegetables might no longer be on the table, and fresh is always the best choice. Processed foods don’t contain as many nutrients, and let’s face it, they don’t taste as good either!
By creating a 7-day healthy eating plan, you can ensure that you have enough supplies for every meal. This also helps if you’re on a budget. It can be intimidating to head to the grocery store and shop for more than one week, because the total that you’ll see adding up at checkout will be daunting, there’s no doubting that. If you shop one week at a time, though, the cost should be doable and you’ll be able to roughly estimate how much you’ll spend each week if you get relatively similar foods each time you head to the store.
Meal Planning Ideas For Families
Meal planning as an activity doesn’t have to be boring. You can look at it like something of a bonding experience, or even a game.
To create a family meal plan complete with a shopping list, plan the meals together as a family to make sure everyone gets food they enjoy. Make it fun, too. Yes, being healthy is the goal, but once in a while, it might be fun to loosen the reins a little and let everyone pick out one treat to look forward to at the end of the day (or week).
You can also create a meal planning activity. Whoever comes up with the most (relatively healthy) options can earn some type of reward, like accompanying Mom or Dad to the store, or getting a few extra minutes of screen time.
After a while, the kids won’t need such an incentive like a meal planning activity. Before you know it, this end-of-the-week planning habit will become routine, and everyone will just come to expect it. Contributing won’t be a chore, because everyone will be able to see the benefits of weighing in on the weekly food options.
When a family works together, they create ideas that work and meals that work, too. A cohesive family is a healthy family, and a healthy family is a happy one.
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