Monday, September 29, 2008

Interview - having a plan for your meals

I'm happy to have another interview to pass along this week - this one is on meal planning. I've decided to spread out the different interviews, though, since there are so many questions I asked of them (like maybe 1 per week)! The following is an interview with Melissa from Dinner Planner. She and Sue created the site because of the constant, "What's for dinner?" question. They wanted to help make it easier for other moms as well. They also have a blog with lots of recipes and helps you can check out! Thanks again Melissa for your great answers!

What helps you get food on the table on a regular basis?

The easiest way to get good, healthy, food on the table regularly is to know ahead of time what you are preparing! At, we simplify your life by planning your weekly meals for you!

What benefits have you seen from having a regular "family time" around the dinner table?
In addition to having the opportunity to catch up with everyone and hear how everyone's day was, which is very important, a study conducted by the National
Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University indicated the children who dined regularly with their families were 31 percent less likely to smoke, drink or take drugs. That should be motivation enough!

What is your favorite reason for having a meal plan?
I HATE the last minute scramble of trying to think of what to make for dinner! Our research has shown that most people don't mind's thinking of what to prepare that is the most frustrating and time-consuming. So having a meal plan simplifies things.

What is the most important feature of having a meal plan?
The most important feature of a meal plan is it regularly helps put a variety of balanced meals on the table. It takes the stress out of constantly worrying about what you will prepare.

Are there any special considerations when looking into or creating a meal plan?
We always go for variety. At, we offer a mix of beef, fish/seafood, pork, poultry, and meatless entrees to break the monotony of eating the "same old, same old". We also try to offer a mix of the side dishes and veggies, too. Of course, if you are cooking for someone with special dietary needs, these must be taken into consideration first.

How do you stay organized while staying so busy and having a family?
I love lists!!!! As crazy as that sounds, I make lists for everything. When you have kids that are doing different things and you are trying to keep yourself organized and run a house ( not to mention working a job), lists are invaluable. A daily "To Do" list, complete with your kid's name on the top (and one for yourself!) keeps you organized and cuts down on frustration. That's why we love our DinnerPlanner menu,'s really a "list" of what to prepare for the week!

What are three of your best tips for meal planning?
Tip #1: Don't be afraid to try new foods. Making the same old food week after week, even if the kids like it, will eventually bring on complaining.
Tip #2: Don't make overly complicated meals if you are pinched for time. If you want to make a more elaborate meal, wait for a day when you have a little extra time.
Tip #3: Post your menu, grab your shopping list, and head to the grocery store. Make one trip a week. With a shopping list that lists all the foods you will need for your menu, you will be ready to prepare the meal of the day in a heartbeat! color-codes the shopping list to match the meal. The red meal sounds wonderful? Make sure to purchase all the red ingredients! Easy and uncomplicated!

Do you really save money having a meal plan?
Statistics prove that having a set meal plan for the week cuts down on last minute "take out" meals, eating out, and impulsive-buying at the grocery store. So yes, having a meal plan saves money!

What insight and helpful hints can you give when it comes to any of the following – gardening, canning, going to farmers markets, etc.
If you have time to plant and maintain a garden, they are very rewarding! Harvesting fresh veggies that you have grown and sharing them with family and friends is all part of the fun, too, and they all seem to taste extra delicious! However, if you don't have the time or the place to plant your own garden, farmers markets are the next best thing. Not only do your support your local farmers, but the produce is fresh and very affordable. If you have time to can fruits and veggies, buying bulk at the farmers markets is your best bet if you don't have a huge garden of your own. Check out our canning pages on our site for helpful tips!

How do you stay creative and innovative in the kitchen and with meals for your family?
I am constantly reading and trying out recipes from cookbooks, newspapers, magazines, etc. I have tried all sorts of new foods with my kids! And I must say, for the most part they have been great about trying these. Everything isn't always a hit, though! Recently, I tried a meal of scallops. (They were wonderful, but perhaps a bit "sophisticated" for kids). My one son, who is horribly allergic to nuts, told me he "would rather eat nuts than eat those scallops again". I got the picture! : )

What's one kitchen utensil you could not live without?
I love my veggie chopper! It saves so much time!

How have you incorporated your children into the cooking scene of your home?
At least once a week, I like to let them pick a meal they would like to prepare- that gives them the opportunity to look over recipes, and determine if it's something they think they could put together with a little help from me! They love helping out...and they really love picking desserts to try!

When would you say the toughest stage in your family's life thus far was for meal planning? What advice would you give now, looking back?
The most difficult stage is the toddler's stage, in my opinion! I have always had my kids try everything at least once. They have turned into decent eaters for the most part, but many veggies are still are hard sell. So my advice would be don't force feed your kids, don't battle them, but do have them at least try a tiny bit. Believe it or not, sometimes they decide they like it!

Are there tricks you've learned to help your kids eat healthier?
If you can sneak veggies into your menu, then by all means do so! We all know the pureed veggies in spaghetti sauce trick, and there are many other opportunities to add "undesired" foods to our meals- in soups, etc. But the biggest trick is to not make any mealtime a battleground. As I mentioned above, have your child try a bit of something, but don't make it a battle of wills. It's supposed to be a pleasant time together with family...

Any additional tips or encouragement for families?
Just remember to make mealtime an enjoyable time. Having a menu selected for the week, along with purchasing all the necessary ingredients all at once, is not only a time saver but a huge stress reliever. This allows you more time for YOU, and we must remember to make time for ourselves once in a while!

1 comment:

  1. Jamie,

    Thanks for your kind comment on my piece "Cry Freedom"-it was my first post on NJ Moms Blog.

    Love the way you run your blog- kind of like a magazine, really informative and entertaining-and I love the feature interviews idea!