If there is one recommendation I could give to young families, it would be to make family meals a priority. Sitting together and sharing a meal is not always easy, but it's a time when you're guaranteed to connect with the whole family. When our kids were younger, it was often the time that all the "school stories" would come out.
Our kids were involved in many activities, so making this a priority was challenging some days...meals were modified to occur at 4:30 some days and 8:00 on others, but we did make it a priority to sit together as a family. We also had another rule...no TV. This made the only entertainment, each other :-) This still works really well for our kids as adults...sometimes that time around the table lingers into 2 hours and plenty of good stories and laughter to boot. I really recommend everyone try it at least a couple times a week if not nightly.
The second building block of getting meals to the table is...buying the ingredients. If you do the menu planning for the week with the recipes close by, you will know ingredients and what amounts you need to buy. I usually keep one list for my weekly menu plan and a second for the list of things I'll need to make the recipes. One thing I've found most helpful to get me in and out of the grocery story efficiently is to sort my list by departments. (OK, so this was my husband's idea, but once I started doing this, it really cut my grocery store time down...I will give credit where it's due ;-)
Sections of the grocery store can be set by whatever makes sense to you. Here is an example of how I sort my list by sections:
Canned Goods - I consider boxes or canned to fall into this category, works for me!
I know this isn't rocket science, but I was really impressed with how an organized list helped me focus my trip through the store. I didn't need to circle back through departments for something I'd forgotten.
Another helpful tips is if you have specific store coupons, call out the exact size of item you need to buy, then you don't need to go search for coupons during the trip.
Kelly and I were talking this weekend and decided to add a new section to our blog. While making recipes is fun, it's also important to think about how you go about your menu planning to keep trips to the grocery store to a minimum...unless of course you enjoy running to the store each day. There are a few building blocks here, so I'm going to talk about the first one, Menu Planning.
If you can spend a few minutes, deciding what you want to eat for the week, it can really help streamline the "what's for dinner" decisions during the week and also help focus your grocery shopping, more on that later.
I like to plan my week on the weekend, so I just have a notebook where I write the days of the week. If we have any special things going on, I add them to the top of the list. This helps me know if I need to make a quick meal that day or if we even need to plan for a meal, in the event we're going to be out.
For example here's what my week looks like coming up:
Sunday - Cook out brats with the kids
Monday - Memorial Day
Tuesday - Out with friends
Wednesday - Tim at work later
Once I have this planned out, I can figure out what ingredients I already have on hand to make these dishes and what I'll need to add to my grocery list. I might come home from work and decide not to have what I planned, but I do have a set of options that I don't need to think about if I have the list in front of me. I've found it helps keep things a little saner at the end of the day.