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Meal Planning Made Easy

My trick to avoid eating out is planning! I have a magnetic white board with each week's menu at the top and a spot for requests at the bottom. The kids love making requests and sometimes we do fun theme weeks like "Family Favorites" where each person gets to pick dinner for a night. This gets my kids involved in meal planning and knowing they sometimes get to pick reduces "complaints".

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Tuesdays and Thursdays are allocated left-over nights, because my oldest son has football practice those nights. I find we often avoid fast-food temptation purely because we know the marinated meat for broccoli beef is waiting in the fridge and needs to get eaten up or it will go to waste. I make sure to plan crock-pot meals or frozen casseroles for nights we have a late event and might be tempted to grab something on the way home. With three kids, we just can't afford to eat out and I find that I enjoy it more if it's a very special event anyway.

This method has helped me avoid food waste because I only shop for what I'm cooking, and I actually have all the ingredients I need on hand which has reduced emergency trips to the pricier store nearby. I put the menu on the back of my shopping list so if there's a great sale I can adjust it as needed. I only shop for groceries once a week and make my list as I move items from requests to the menu. It's much easier to add items to requests as I think of them, than it was to brainstorm five meals at once, plus this way I know my husband has really been craving homemade pizza.

I save time too, as knowing what's for dinner allows me to prep over the weekend or the night before. Since I work late, the menu means my husband can start dinner while I'm on my way home (I stick the recipe cards for the week on the board with magnets). Anyhow, I've tried several systems, and this has worked the best for me. I stole the idea from the kid's lunch menu :)

By cs_jag from Hillsboro, OR

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