I have used a menu board on and off for a long time. I’ve used chalk boards, which get messed up by kids drawing on them all the time, I’ve tried white boards which worked well for awhile but erased super easy, and now I’m into using a wet erase board which seems to combine the best of all worlds.
It only erases with water which means it is very hard for little boys to rub the words off with their fingers, it is black which blends in with my refrigerator, and it has held up surprisingly well. Win-win-win. If you get a wet erase board, make sure you get wet erase markers, which are apparently different than dry erase ones. (I got this one at Target for about $12.00)
However, although the menu board is fun to use and look at – it is only one part of my eating strategy for weight loss and weight maintenance.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I am a firm believer in the importance of planning. I plan meals, plan exercise, plan how to handle vacations, and definitely plan how to handle social situations.
I thought I’d share some tool and techniques that I use when planning my meals. I sure wish I had known how to do this when I was first married, because I really think it would have helped me immensely. Well, it also would have helped if I had known how to cook, but that’s another post for another day.
When I sit down to plan my meals I use these two tools that I’ve put up on my website as a download for you.
Menu Planning Worksheet (this is a .pdf)
Grocery Store List By Category (this is an Excel spreadsheet. If I’m doing a short trip I use this, but I have a longer one for my family since there are 9 of us!)
Once I have the worksheet and the blank grocery store list, I’m ready to go.
I begin by planning dinners because that’s the most complex meal for me. We generally eat vegetarian meals three or four nights a week and something with chicken the other nights. I take advantage of some of my favorite cookbooks such as the Superfoods: Cook Your Way to Health by Jyl Steinback (out-of-print, but available used from Amazon (affiliate links), The Sparkpeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight, and my Taste of Home cookbook. The last one is not a low-calorie cookbook but I’m an expert at adapting recipes to be healthier for me and my family.
We generally have one Mexican meal a week, one Italian meal, and pizza night. That leaves me several other nights to either serve family favorites or try something new. If it’s a busy week I make sure that I have quick, easy meals on tap like chicken noodle soup made with the leftover roasted chicken from the night before, a bean dish that utilizes beans I’ve already cooked and frozen ahead of time, or a brown rice dish using cooked brown rice that I’ve frozen. You see how much planning helps?
Lunches are easy for me because I make my own sandwich bread and I fill it with a healthy nut butter, eggs, roasted chicken, or occasionally sharp cheddar cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches. I also serve tortillas, salad, leftovers, or whatever else strikes my fancy. My two older daughters and my husband take leftovers (if available) or make their own sandwiches. They rarely run through a drive-thru (yay for good choices!)
Breakfast is usually a healthy cereal like one from Attune Foods, whole wheat pancakes, a huge pot of oatmeal, or grits and eggs. I admit to choosing cereal over cooked breakfasts most days.
Only my littlest boys eat snacks on a regular basis. They have hummus and whole wheat crackers, cheese sticks, unsalted pretzels, fruit, or carrots. If I have a snack it is usually popcorn or carrots.
I make my grocery store list at the same time as I menu plan. The whole process takes less than 30 minutes a week. Whenever anyone tells me that they don’t have time to plan their meals, I tell them they don’t have time not to! When I think of all the money we’ve saved by not going to restaurants and not shopping more than once a week those 30 minutes are absolutely worth their weight in gold.
How are you at menu planning? Gotten better with time or just plain burned out? Please share any tips for other readers! Diane