Here’s something new that I’ve been doing since school started two weeks ago – menu planning! Yup, in my almost 16 years of motherly existence, this is the first time that I’m actually planning meals seriously.
The kids, being older and wiser, just won’t settle for alternating fried egg and tocino breakfasts now. Adobo lunch boxes don’t excite them anymore either. To make sure the menu doesn’t get tiring, we thought of planning the meals. Menu planning actually isn’t as intimidating as it appears. Here’s how we do it.
Involve the kids. Right at the start of planning the meals, I asked the kids what meals were their favorites. Ask them what they want to eat. Meals don’t matter if they won’t be eaten, so find out what school lunches they want. After I have completed the week’s menu plan, I show it to them and I see that they are excited to see old favorites and new recipes.
Start small. I initially planned for 2 weeks. But I think weekly planning will be easier for me. This way, there’s variety in meals, while the planning and shopping aren’t too taxing. Also, I’m thinking we will find out what meals work and don’t after this month. So I will probably be doing 2-week cycles by July.
Think quick and easy – but not necessarily fried! For most of us, fried is the way to go for quick and easy meals. But my kids don’t really like fried baon because by the time they eat lunch, fried food has turned soggy. There are a lot of easy, non-fried ideas on the internet, and here are some that I’ve included in the coming weeks:
- Soy Chicken
- Steamed Spareribs (Incidentally, I am loving Smoky Wok, the website where I found these 2 recipes!)
- Teriyaki Chicken Thighs
- Cheese and Sausage Meatloaf
Rotate recipes. I think my kids and hub will be able to forgive me if I repeat a recipe once a week. I will make sure to put a repeated recipe in a different meal though, so as not to be too obvious. So if fried rice was for breakfast this week, it will be for packed lunch next week.
Use your tools. In my case, a simple Excel file works. Having everything I need in one place helps. There’s a worksheet for new recipes, sauces, and the shopping list. A mommy blogger-friend recommended the Pepperplate app, and I might just try it soon.
Do all your shopping in one go. After I’ve made the meal plan, it’s time to go through the ingredients of each recipe. Check your pantry before you make your shopping list. It helps to stock on staples – such as flour, cornstarch, pasta, noodles, sauces, spices – so you don’t have to keep going back to the grocery.
One big benefit of planning meals that I realized is being able to save. Because I only buy stuff that I know I actually need, all other unnecessary purchases are avoided.
Prep ahead. Because you know what you will be cooking in the morning, it’s easy to prep all the stuff you need the night before. Sauces (that don’t easily spoil) can be made ahead and refrigerated. Meats can marinate overnight. You can chop the veggies, or cook meat that takes a while to soften. Just make sure to refrigerate pre-cooked food and heat them thoroughly in the morning to ensure food safety.
The best thing with planned meals? Less crazy mornings!
I’m happy that my family have better meals and packed lunches now. They’re happy too. I hope.
Do you have other tips to share? Comment below!