So, you know you're eating out too much, you've added a few pounds, and the cost is starting to get out of hand. But with your busy schedule and limited energy, where do you start to find the right meal planning idea that will work for your family? Are you one of the people who check with a search engine online about how to plan a spaghetti dinner?
Here are five ideas to get you started:
1. Set up a meal exchange with one or two families each week and agree to try it for a couple of months. Make a double batch of your favorite taco salad to deliver and know that you will have a prepared meal in exchange one night a week. Split the cost of inexpensive containers and lids that can go between homes.
2. If you are tempted to go out to eat, but it's not in the budget right now, you can cook your favorite Red Lobster's garlic cheese biscuits or Cracker Barrel Hash Brown Casserole. Just do an online search for words such as "copy cat recipes" or "top secret recipes." Before long your kitchen will start smelling like you work at the Olive Garden. This is a great way to create healthy meal plans for teens that don't want to join you for dinner any longer.
3. Consider trying a meal preparation service like Dream Dinners. For a set price, you go in and choose meals based on your family's likes, dislikes, eating restrictions, and budget. Then you prepare the meals right there and package them up to bring them home to your freezer. The result? Fast healthy dinner plans and finished meals. The cost may be a bit more than if you did it in your own kitchen, but it's significantly less than eating out and much healthier. It's a good chance to learn how to cook better too.
4. Avoid the temptation purchase entire meals of take-out. Instead, mix part of a meal from your favorite restaurant with a partially prepared meal at home. For example, it simple and inexpensive to make a large Greek salad with tossed with dressing, olives and feta cheese. Then order a large side order of Gyro meat from your local Greek restaurant. You'll get more value for your money and also have a fresh meal of something you typically would not make at home.
5. Get organized with meal planning by deciding what works best for your schedule. Can you make a double batch of meat loaf and freeze half for another evening? Online you can find various dinner menu planning software systems. Or find a blank print out of a weekly meal plan. Does it help to break down the dinners by style of foods? For example, plan six night's meals as: two - fish; one - poultry; one - beef; one - salad; one - sandwich.
The last step is to start flipping through magazines, dusting off those old cookbooks, and taking a poll of your family member's favorite meals. Then start your planning and grocery list. Within just a few days you will likely have at least twenty recipes and that can get you through about six weeks of meals. And forgo taking all the responsibility for meals. Make everyone get involved by making the kids responsible for one meal a week; bribe your spouse to accompany you to a Dream Dinner style meal preparation jaunt. In no time your dinner blues will disappear and leave you with a wonderful feeling of accomplishment... and relief!