4 Ways to Plan Family Meals

1. Consider the Pyramid

The USDA wants to make it easier to plan meals for a family by sharing an interactive tool that helps cooks focus on nutrient dense foods that should form the basis of every meal. The focus of this tool is the food pyramid, a visual guide to eating the right amount from each food group. You can use the menu-planning tool at the USDA’s website to plan a menu for a up to a week for a family that includes 7 or fewer members. Parents can appreciate the way this menu tool helps you meet the nutritional goals you set for your family, whether that means calorie control or increasing whole grain intake.

2. No Short Order Cooking

Fussy school-aged children can make the best-planned meals come unraveled when they turn parents into short order cooks. If you have two finicky children that demand a special meal each night, planning for 7 meals can mushroom into planning for 21 meals. Nip this behavior in the bud, and save your sanity and everyone’s nutrition. Although parents can’t control how much children eat, they control when the family eats and what foods come to the table. Serve your children the same foods everyone is eating, and attempt to include at least one age-appropriate sized serving of a food the child likes. It may take a dozen attempts before a child tries a new food.

3. Freezer Pleasers

Double at least one recipe you prepare during the week, and plan to serve that dish the following week for a no-brainer meal on a busy weeknight. Extend the meal’s time in your freezer to a few weeks or a month if your family enjoys variety in their menus. You can also change the side dishes and dessert you serve with the dish the second time to freshen the presentation of the meal.

4. Stock Your Pantry

If you have a well stocked pantry, you’ll never have to wonder what’s for dinner, as you can always cobble together a simple meal from the basics. The exact items you should include can vary according to your cooking style and family taste, but you can start with a list of things your family eats each week. Consider baking supplies, such as flour, sugar and baking powder. Take stock of cereals and grains, including bread, crackers, pasta and rice. Include fats and oils, such as vegetable oil and cooking spray. Add a wide variety of canned and dried goods that can serve as a basis for casseroles or side dishes, including your favorite vegetables, fruits, soups and beans.

About this Author

Jamie McIntosh is a freelance writer who holds Bachelor’s degrees in Interpersonal Communication and Food and Nutrition. She also has a Master’s degree in communication studies. McIntosh currently writes online health articles. Her seven years of experience with the Cancer Information Service has given McIntosh a passion for healthy living.