Monday, September 27, 2010

Weekly Menu Planning – It's in the Bag

Whenever I think about putting a meal in a bag, I think lunch. School lunch, work lunch ... either way. Who knew that bagging dinner might be a good idea, too?

A few weeks ago, my wife and I went to a special fireside put on by the High Priest Group in our ward. As part of the presidency of that group, naturally I had to go. I'm glad I did. A woman from the upper echelons of the LDS Church welfare and food storage programs came and spoke to us about getting our food storage together. At the bequest of the First Presidency, she was called to do some major studying on food storage and food storage recipes. The whole thing was very enlightening.

One thing we took away was the idea of a “bagged meal.” In this case, you get everything you need to make a single meal and put it in a bag. Canned goods, packets, dried stuff, whatever, along with direction on how to make the meal. That way, when it comes time to cook, you just go grab the bag from your panty and start cooking.

The bagged meals also come in handy if someone in the ward is ill or, for whatever other reason, needs to have meals brought into them. No problem. Just grab a bag and hand it over to the Relief Society President.

My wife and I have started implementing that idea, along with the meal planner at KitchenMonki, to make meal preparation faster and easier. Our goal for some time has been to have better, more regular family meals prepared by the family, not just me. The fact that I want my kids to learn to cook is no secret. The fact that my wife hates to cook from scratch is no secret, either.

Weekly Meal Planning with Bagged Dinners

Here's what we've been doing to create a week of bagged meals. On Friday night, we create a dinner plan for the week using the meal planning tool at KitchenMonki. Any tool would do, even a piece of paper. We just happen to like this one. Each of my children has been assigned to one day of the week to cook, with help from either Mom or Dad depending on the day, leaving the other days for my wife and me.

When making the plan, we only plan for dinners. Breakfasts and lunches during the week are still pretty much up for grabs, either by default or necessity. It gives us a chance to eat any leftovers and it just works better for us, given everyone's schedules. When planning those dinners, we get the kids involved. Whoever is cooking gets a say in what they want to make that day, with a little guidance when needed from yours truly. That way, they are invested in the process of planning full, mostly balanced meals. They get to learn a bit about nutrition menu planning because they are doing the planning. They are also more invested in the idea of making their dinner, and are more happy to actually do it when the time comes.

Printing the Menu Plan

Once the plan is made we print out the weekly menu as one document and put it up on the bulletin board. That way everyone knows what's coming up for dinner that week, and can remind themselves of what they're cooking on their days.

Next, I print out the recipes for each day as a single document. I staple the pages together, write the day of the week on it, and make other notes based on any modifications or clarifications needed for that day. Then we put a number on each day's packet: 1 through 7, depending on the day. For us, the week starts on Monday not Sunday so, Monday is #1, Tuesday is #2, and so on.

Next, we check the menus and create a grocery list for the week. If there's anything we already have on hand, great. If not, we add it to the list. Saturday morning, or late Friday night, I go to the grocery store and pick up the items we need, along with any staples we may need for breakfast and lunch.

After the chores and grocery shopping are done, we get the kids together and prepare the meal bags, each person prepping their own meal.

But I'll tell you more about how we do that, next time.

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