Menu Plan Monday: In Praise of the Menu Plan
Menu Plan Mondays have taken the blogosphere by storm as of late, and it's with good reason. There are lots of great reasons why having a weekly menu plan for your family is a good idea. Here are a few of the best:
It gives you a road map for the week
If nothing else goes right during the week (and let's face it, we all have weeks like that) at least you can relax in the knowledge that at least supper is taken care of. It gives your day an anchor of certainty. So, if your kid forgets his lunch every day this week, you miss an important deadline and you get the worst haircut of your life, at least you know that dinner is taken care of.
It allows everyone to have some input
One of the best ways to ensure everyone eats what you serve is to give them some ownership of the menu plan. If your kids are very little, you can keep it simply by asking them to choose between two options (Would you like carrots or corn with the meatloaf?) but if you have older kids, you can allow them to plan the entire meal for a certain night of the week. Meal planning is a great life skill to teach your kids, too, so this is a winning strategy on many fronts. You may have to eat chicken nuggets once a week, but don't veto their choices. Allowing them to feel in control will boost their self-esteem and reinforce that their tastes and decisions matter within your family.
It keeps you accountable
Let's say you don't have a menu plan. You prefer to fly by the seat of your pants. It's now 5pm and you have nothing defrosted for dinner. This leaves you with two options: Feed the kids cheese and crackers or something out of a box for dinner, or you can hit up the local drive-thru. Either way, a bad case of Mom guilt inevitably follows. By planning out your meals, you can take the necessary components out of the freezer the night before, throw dinner in the crockpot in the morning (or otherwise prep, as the meal dictates) and be ready to feed the screaming masses when the dinner hour arrives.
It saves you money
As previously mentioned, when you plan your meals ahead of time, you won't be tempted to hit up the drive-thru, which can become very costly very quickly. Planning meals also saves money because you can plan for a "clean out the fridge" day. I typically factor these into the end of the week. At this meal, we open up all of the leftovers containers from the week (you know, those 2 meatballs you didn't get to, that 1 cup of pasta, that extra chicken breast, etc.) and make it sort of a buffet. Everyone loads up their plate with what they want. This might mean you have to make a couple of extra sides and a salad, but it cleans out the fridge for the week ahead and ensures food doesn't go to waste.