Ask This When Planning a Family Dinner

Fixing meals for the whole family can be quite the challenge -- you want your food to be delicious, but meals must be healthy and there should be enough for leftovers. Most people can't afford to spend hours each day in the kitchen, so how can you put food on the table in a way that's fast while meeting your standards? The answer is to make family dinner plans far in advance. When planning a family dinner, ask yourself the following questions to help decide which foods to incorporate as main courses and side dishes. Plan well, and your family will be happier, healthier and always satisfied at the dinner table.

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Do I have all the cooking supplies I need?
If you don't cook often at home, then you may find yourself lacking the right utensils, pots, pans or bowls needed to prepare your family dinners. When planning your meals for the week, pay close attention to which supplies you'll need to prepare each meal. Make sure you have these supplies, and buy them if you don't own them. You'll save money in the long run by being able to cook more often at home.
What helps to get food on the table on schedule?
Think about what keeps you from preparing dinner in a regular, timely manner. Are you deterred from cooking when the dishes are dirty? Do you find yourself needing too many trips to the grocery store? Is there too much indecision about what to make? Identifying the things that keep you away from the kitchen is the first step toward correcting these inefficiencies and getting onto a regular schedule.
Can I get my children to help prepare family meals?
Getting your children involved in cooking not only helps them learn basic skills and responsibilities, but you (and your kids) may actually have fun fixing meals together. When planning your family dinners, try to come up with one meal every one or two weeks that your children can take part in. A great idea is having family pizza night, but make your own pizza using crusts you buy at the store. Buy all kinds of toppings and let your kids help you build the pizzas before putting them in the oven.
Can I use coupons?
If you're not already using coupons, you should start. Your local Sunday newspaper is filled with coupons that can save you lots of money each month. There are also online coupon Web sites that let you download and print coupons; you may even be able to get coupon codes sent to your smartphone. Search for coupons before you plan your meals for the next week, and use them when you go shopping. You can even plan your family dinners according to which coupons you're able to find.
Do I have enough space to store food?
To really cook at home, you're going to need space to store non-perishable food. If you have a dedicated pantry, you're all set. If you're not in the habit of cooking often at home, though, then you may need to clear some space to make sure you have enough room.
Are there special health considerations in my family?
Does someone in your family have health issues that must be accounted for? Is your family doctor concerned about your, your spouse or your children gaining too much weight? Do you feel that everyone needs to be a little more worried about their health? If so, consider this when planning out your weekly meals. A big benefit to cooking at home is you get to control your family's nutritional health.
Have I planned my meals for the week?
Don't plan your meals day-by-day. Instead, plan out your family's meals a week ahead of time, and then go grocery shopping one time for everything you need. When planning your family dinners, you can plan to use foods and ingredients over the course of multiple meals, so you're not needing to buy separate ingredients for each night. You'll save lots of time and money when shopping and preparing this way.
Do I have a quick go-to meal for emergencies?
Even if all of your meals are planned for the next week, there may be a night when something unexpected happens, and you can't afford to spend lots of time in the kitchen. For times like these, it's good to have a quick-fix meal on standby that could be prepared at a moment's notice. You can find healthy frozen meals at the grocery store, or you could fix something like spaghetti with frozen meatballs. Canned foods, such as chili, can also be good in emergencies.

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