The first step to creating stress-free and money-saving meals is to sit down and plan a food menu. But even if your heart is in the right place, there are a few mistakes that can easily get in your way. Here are a few common food menu mistakes, and how to avoid them:
- Forgetting Cooperation – When you first begin putting together your menu plan, don’t forget to ask for input from your family. After all, they will be sitting down at the dinner table, too! You will be surprised at all the wonderful food ideas and inspiration your children or partner comes up with. All menus can benefit from a little collaboration.
- Not Being Realistic – We are all guilty of a little wishful thinking, especially when it comes to food. But it’s important to be reasonable when you are planning a menu. Are you really going to take the time to marinate 3 pounds of beef chuck for boeuf bourguignon when you get home from work on a Monday night? Start small, and work up to the more complicated meals or save them for special occasions.
- Eschewing Quality or Affordability for Convenience – It is so tempting to buy the prepackaged salad or the prepared chicken breast, especially when you are in a hurry. But you will likely pay for the convenience, financially and nutritionally. If finding time to prepare your foods is an everyday issue, set aside a time to prepare a large quantity to use for the whole week. You can chop vegetables and store in the refrigerator, cook chicken then freeze in meal-sized portions, or prepare marinades or dressings for use throughout the week.
- Not Utilizing Leftovers – Wasting food means wasting energy. So when you make good use of your leftovers, you are doing something good for the planet. Plan side dishes that can complement several meals, and always save anything that is leftover to be used again. Leftover meat can become a finger sandwich on tomorrow’s brunch menu, and those extra vegetables might be the perfect base for a hearty stew. And if you are concerned about the safety of your leftovers, just you use a little common sense. The Mayo Clinic says that most leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator safely for four days at a time. Reheat leftovers in the oven or microwave or on the stove until the food’s internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
Avoiding these mistakes will save you lots of hassle and frustration. Once you get the hang of meal planning, you can relax and enjoy making dinner for your family.
- “How long can you safely keep leftovers in the refrigerator?”, Mayo Clinic
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