Menu planning saves time money (and can occasionally save my sanity) but have you ever fallen off the menu planning wagon? Changes in your routine have a way of disrupting good habits and I’ll admit, with our recent move (hey, 3 months ago is still recent right?) and the stress of establishing new routines in our new home, menu planning has just not been happening and my food budget needs a bit of a kick in the pants.
It happens to the best of us. The important thing is to start making positive change before you replace your menu planning habits with a less desirable habit.
So how do you turn things around?
Start. This is the key to almost anything in life. If you want to make a change you have to start. It doesn’t matter how off course you’ve gone, you CAN take small steps to get where you want to be.
Keep things simple. When I’ve gotten out of the habit of menu planning (and I hate to admit how often this has happened to me) I have to keep things simple and start small. Sit down and plan out today’s meals. Look at what you have on hand and figure out what you are having for dinner tonight. From there it gets easier to plan out a week (or even two weeks) worth of meals.
Take a food inventory. When I haven’t been menu planning for a while I end up with a lot of food waste. I can usually come up with a week’s worth of meals from my pantry to use up all the excess and get away with buying only a few fresh ingredients so taking a thorough food inventory is usually a good place to start getting my menu planning back on track. Make a list of all the fresh, canned, and frozen foods you have on hand and plan meals around those. Be sure and use up the fresh ingredients first. You’ve already invested in that food. You may as well use it up.
Keep your menu visible. My kids love it when I keep our menu plan in a visible location in our kitchen. I usually stick it on the side of the fridge or on the inside of our pantry door. This saves me from answering questions about what we are having dinner 50 times a day. Keeping a menu visible also helps remind me that I really do have a plan in place for dinner so I can be sure and do any advanced prep work I need to do like thawing meat or soaking beans.
Set a weekly date with yourself. As much as I wish dinner would magically appear on my kitchen table every night at 5:00, there’s a lot of planning involved with getting it there. Menu planning is easy to put off if you don’t set a regular time to do it. Schedule a weekly date with yourself to browse through new recipes, inventory your pantry, and create a menu plan for the week. I like to do this on Saturday afternoons so I can hit the grocery store Monday morning and be ready for the week but this can happen anytime as long as it becomes a regular part of your schedule.
How do you get restarted when you slack off with menu planning?
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