For some reason, I always think of September as the "real" start of the new year. I know that January 1st gets all the attention, but September just seems like a better time to try new things, to tackle projects that have been on the "to do" list for too long and to get organized! The cooler temperatures, the back-to-school excitement...maybe it's just me, but I'm feeling motivated!
But where to start? As with my "real" new year's resolutions, I believe in starting small. Successes build momentum and give us the much-needed boost we need to tackle some of the loftier goals on our list. What could be more basic than food? Meal planning is a great way to stay organized because it helps you to:
- save on the grocery bill (coupons? sales?) and cut down on food waste;
- avoid last-minute takeout foods and pre-packaged meals;
- eat a wider variety of food items;
- get the whole family involved in making and enjoying meals;
- save time and money on last minute trips to the grocery store or market; and
- encourage family members to share a meal, giving you more time with those you love.
Menu Planning Tips:
1. Pick a time and stick to it: Decide when you will make your weekly menu (monthly menus seem too daunting for me because you never know when the calendar might change, but you could try it too!) and make it part of your routine. Ask family members to help by contributing meal ideas and look at recipes for inspiration.
2. Check your calendar and know your routine: When do you go grocery shopping? What are the recurring activities that make dinnertime a bit rushed on some nights of the week? Are there nights when slow cooker meals might work best or do you need some meals that are "make your own" because people arrive home at vastly different times?
3. Make menus and lists at the same time: While you make up your menu, create a complimentary shopping list. This ensures that you have everything on hand to turn the menu ideas into meals without extra trips to the store. If you have coupons, paperclip them to the shopping list and check local flyers for sales or bulk-buying opportunities.
4. Make and take your list: Remember to take your shopping list (and coupons) to the store and stick to it when shopping. This helps you save money and cut down on food waste. Build your shopping list throughout the week by adding items that you need to replace as soon as you recycle the empty container. If you're lucky enough to have pantry space, consider stocking up on family favourites like taco kits, soups or pasta so that you'll have extra options for healthy last-minute meals.
5. Stick with it: Menu planning can be easy, but only once it's part of your organized routine. It may take a few weeks to get into a routine, so be patient with yourself. You may also like to track your progress, even anecdotally. Did you manage to cut down on the number of trips to the store? Is the composter or garbage bin feeling lonelier now that food waste has been reduced? Are you enjoying the variety of meals being created and enjoyed by the family?
I'd love to hear from you with tips, success stories or questions about meal planning. Feel free to use the Comments section to connect with me and the Smart.Organized.Simple community.