When it comes to feeding yourself and family well, meal planning is one of the easiest things you can do to set yourself up for success! It may feel like a daunting task at first, but once you get started you will find a method that works for you and the rest will be history. If your children are old enough, you can include them in the planning, which will get them excited about the healthy foods you are cooking and be more willing to try them.
Still not sold on Meal Planning? Here are some advantages:
- Saves you time: Planning ahead cuts back on the time you spend shopping for groceries as well as reduces the time spent driving to pick-up last minute meals.
- Saves you money: When you have your menus planned out, you know exactly which ingredients you need to buy and can stick to that list while shopping. This can help reduce impulse buys.
- Promotes healthy eating: Meal planning lends its hand to providing more balanced and nutritious meals. It allows you to plan for wholesome meals and avoid last minute grabs of fast food or processed meals.
- Reduces food waste: Planning ahead allows you to more intentionally select your ingredients and ensure they have a purpose. It also allows you to ensure you will utilize everything you buy in at least one meal (if not two).
So, how do you meal plan? Below are a few easy steps on how to get started.
- Assess your eating situation: Think about what’s going on next week for you and your family and decide how many meals you can prepare and serve. Also, think about how much mileage you can get from each recipe, foods that freeze, like a lasagna, are great to doubling up on and freeze. Choose recipes based on the time you have. If this week is going to be crazy stick to quick and easy recipes.
- Create a meal plan calendar: Regardless of your preferred format, the key here is to get a calendar and fill it in with specific meals. I prefer to stick with a theme each week, like hearty salads, but you can choose to plan your recipes around certain ingredients so you can cut down on not using everything you buy.
- Make a list: Once you know what meals you want to cook, write out the ingredients (or add them electronically to your cart). Take a look in your fridge and pantry to make sure you don’t already have an ingredient on hand.
- Rate your meals: Once you’ve made a meal take a second to rate it. Was it easy to make, did you like the taste, could you add more veggies. Hold on to the recipes that suit your needs well and make them again in the upcoming months.
Want a shortcut? Use Relay Food’s meal planning, with over 600 recipes created by a Registered Dietitian. Categories include Quick and Easy, 30 minutes or less, and Family Friendly. Check out the tutorial here.
This post is brought to you by Laura Miller, MPH and soon to be Registered Dietitian. She is also a Local Market Manager for Relay Foods, a healthy online Grocery store that services the Triangle.