Creative Meal Planning Ideas your Family will Enjoy
Meal planning is an important part of home cooking, and saves many families time, money and effort. Sometimes, though, meal planning can get boring and start to feel a little like digging into a rut. Unless, of course, you have ideas about selecting a vegan meal kit for your household. Here are some ideas to enliven meal planning and open up creativity in the kitchen.
Having a certain theme for each night of the week is a good strategy to help expand meal planning creativity. When working within certain parameters, ideas sometimes get much better because of the limitations. Some ideas for themes include certain kinds of foods, such as Mexican, Italian, casseroles, vegetarian, soups and sandwiches, pizza night, Asian, American favorites, finger foods, etc. Themes can also be as simple as chicken on Tuesdays, pasta on Wednesday, beef on Friday and so on.
Limit Meats or Favorite Repeats
It may seem that limiting certain foods will make meal planning more difficult instead of less, but it can help to jar the planner out of a rut that can come from repeating the same ten favorite meals over and over. By cutting back on the familiar recipes, a family will try new foods more often. If you are used to serving meat frequently, making more days into meatless days with help lower the budget and introduce your family to new protein sources at the same time. Explore bean recipes, lentils and other protein rich grains that are common in other countries.
Mix It Up
Often, it’s easy to fall into the trap of limiting what time of day which kinds of foods will be served. Mix this up to have a little more fun with planning the family menu. Breakfast foods for dinner, like omelets with lots of veggies, or pancakes covered in fruit, are filling and a cool change of pace for the family. And who’s to say that sandwiches or pizza can only be served at lunch or dinner. Any lean protein and whole grain combinations, like turkey sandwiches or leftover pizza, can make a delicious breakfast to provide lots of energy.
Involve the Family
Ask each member of the family to contribute to the menu for a couple of days. If time and abilities allow, you can also give them responsibility for preparing the meals they choose on their day. This will make the family more invested in what they eat, and appreciative of the meals they’re served. It will also teach valuable meal planning skills for the future.
Leave it to Chance
Sometimes it’s best to just let the chips fall where they may. You can do this in your meal planning by writing out different meals, main dishes or whole combinations, sides, themes or recipes on index cards and drawing them randomly. You may want final say in the order the dishes are served to best use leftovers, or maybe only have one or two days a week in the menu plan that are “wild” and planned by the chance of the draw.
Another fun tip for random food planning is a snack spinner. Draw wedges on a paper plate and label each one with a healthy snack that will be easy to have on hand. Attach a cardboard arrow with a brad. When snack time comes around and it’s difficult to decide what to eat, or cookies are all you can really think about, give the arrow a spin, and eat the winner as a snack.
I hope these ideas will enliven your meal planning routine, and allow you to have a little more creativity and fun in your weekly menu making.