I find menu planning quite hard to do. You see, I always run out of ideas on what to cook for the day, much less for a week! But menu planning makes a lot of things more efficient and time saving, wouldn’t you agree?
Recently, I attended Mommy Mundo’s Good Eats for Moms where I was able to listen to several speakers share tips and insights on how to prepare healthy meals for the family.
Menu Planning and Baon Making Tips
Michelle Aventajado of Momma ‘n Manila share how she plans her menu for the family. She also shared tips on how to pack lunches for kids (or for your partners or even for yourself).
First thing is to plan ahead. There are a lot of menu planners available online but what Michelle shared was very easy to follow. You just have to write down the dishes you plan to cook for the week then come up with a grocery list out of it. Break down the grocery items based on where you plan to buy the items. For example, fresh goods will be bought from the market while the condiments to be used or other frozen goods will be bought from the grocery store. That way, you won’t be wasting time going back and forth to the stores just because you forgot to list it down.
One other thing is always check your pantries. Which items need restocking? Which items have run out of supplies?
It is easier to plan for weekly consumption compared to monthly menus. But if you can do monthly, why not, right?
I realized that Michelle was right when she said “make dishes that keeps giving.” What does this mean?
An example that she shared was roasted chicken. The bones can be used to make chicken stock that can be stored and used for soup dishes or even to cook pasta in. The meat, if not consumed all, can be used for chicken sandwich the next day or even as chicken salad. Practical, right?
In terms of storing food, there are a lot of food keepers available in the market nowadays. One thing that is space saver would be plastic bags. Another is the disposable microwavable containers. Dividing meats in portions depending on what is needed per meal and storing them in plastic bags or microwavable containers makes things a lot easier.
When it comes to preparing lunchboxes, always make sure to use the proper food containers as well. There are a lot of different kinds of food containers nowadays so it is a lot better to have different ones for each type of food. For me, I only use three – one big rectangle container, one smaller version and a round one with a twist cap which I use for soupy viands. For preparing kids’ lunchboxes, there are also a lot of cute food containers with dividers which can be filled with different kinds of food.
Healthy Baby Food and Snacks for Tots and Kids
Tanya, Namee and Mel, the authors of Whole+Natural Baby Food Cookbook also shared tips on how to prepare baby food.
When babies start eating solids, it is sometimes scary, especially for a first time mom, to give them food. So the option is to buy the bottled purees or even the powdered cereals. Whole+Natural Baby Food Cookbook contains recipes that can be easily prepared using all natural ingredients.
One example, which they have demoed, is the pasta, zucchini, and mushrooms in cream and cheese. The mushrooms and zucchinis were sauteed in olive oil first then the cream was added as well as the pasta. Instead of using salt (which is really not advisable yet for babies and toddlers), they used grated parmesan to add a little bit of saltiness to the dish.
We were able to sample the dish and I can say that the little boy enjoyed it.
One tip that they have shared is to try to plate the food for the babies. This makes the food look more interesting and it can also be a tool for babies to learn to feed themselves independently.
Who doesn’t know Bento Mommas? They also shared tips on how to make lunch boxes look more enticing for kids as well as how to make bento-making a hobby.
Did you know that making art bento lunchboxes can make food look more enticing for a picky eater? Who wouldn’t eat something that looks as good as this?
See what I mean? 🙂
I never prepared something like this before since I only prepare lunchbox for myself. Also, the little boy is not a picky eater so I have never thought of making cute and fun shapes out of his food. And I have never thought that it is quite easy to make these cute bentos as well.
As what the Bento Mommas said, bento making is not really hard. While there are already a lot of different tools available in the market to make these designs, one can always use tools that are already in your kitchen. Cookie cutters can be used to make different shaped sandwiches or even to mold the rice, muffin cups can be used as dividers (and to make the presentation more colorful), etc.
One key tip in making bento boxes easier and less time consuming is to prepare ahead of time. Cut outs from nori wrappers can be made ahead of time and stored in an air tight container. Breads and cheeses can be cut in the specific design the night before, too. All you have to do on the day itself is to assemble the food in the lunch box based on the design you have in mind.
From a half day session with these presenters, here are a few of my takeaways:
- Menu planning makes life easier. By having a planned menu for the week, it is easier to identify what needs to be bought and how much of each to buy. In this way, food waste can be avoided. Less food waste, more savings in the end.
- Food storage is very important. Knowing where to store certain food in the fridge helps in keeping the food fresher and could last longer.
- Instead of using salt for toddlers’s food, a healthier option that can be used would be cheese. I never cooked the little boy’s meal with cheese (apart from adding it to pasta when he started eating pasta). I’ve always used a little salt. I might try a few dishes some time.
- Bento-making is one way of making a picky eater eat. Kids are enticed by the designs of their food which makes it easier for them to eat.
- Just like anything else in life, preparing meals for the family takes so much time but when planned ahead, us mommas can have more fun in the kitchen knowing that what we are preparing for our family is healthy with lots of love.
Thank you, RJ Dancel, for the invite. 🙂