10 Healthy Meal Planning Tips For The Whole Family

family-friendly and healthy meal planning tips

Guest Post by Peter Minkoff

Whether you’re looking to eat healthier as a family, or just avoid going on a shopping binge every time you walk into a grocery store, meal planning can go a long way in helping you cut your costs, save time, and stay healthy. Let’s see what you can do to keep the process as simple as possible and check at least this one parental worry off your list!

Plan to plan

Much can go wrong if you constantly keep your meal-planning time flexible. Make a commitment to spend an hour or two at a specific time during the week and stick to your little family appointment. For example, Saturday at noon should be reserved for planning your next week of meals, later that day, at 5pm, you can go grocery shopping, and Sunday morning can be reserved for making the meals ahead.

Make your little cookbook

No matter the size of your family, every member has their own favorite dish. You’ll want to make a list of meals they love, and then see how many of them you can make your main meals. Categorize them according to the type of recipe and the complexity of ingredients, so that you can swap and mix when the need arises.

Think seasonal thoughts

A significant part of keeping your meals as healthy as possible is using fresh, locally-grown ingredients that are available during the year. Your yearly meal-planning can be focused on dishes that contain items currently in season, so there’s another idea as to how you can make your family cookbook even more organized! Also, you probably don’t want to spend your summers next to a hot stove, so you can keep your recipes practical and weather-friendly, as well.

Ready-to-eat options

No, this has nothing to do with those canned meals and microwave dinners, on the contrary, the idea of meal planning serves to help you use as little processed food as possible, and go for fresh, whole food to make your own meals. However, if you don’t have the time or the know-how to make brilliant dishes, you can use ready-made healthy meal plans put together by people who specialize in healthy nutrition and can create a plan perfect for you and your family.

Get organized

If your kitchen is a mess, you won’t be able to put your plan into action. Get rid of all expired products, and items you’d like to banish from your diet, such as those candy bars, chips, and soda. Instead, use the first grocery day to supply your kitchen with fresh produce and go-to essentials, such as spices, healthy snacks, and containers in which you can store and freeze your meals.

No meal left behind

For families that often end up throwing out leftover dinners and lunches, it’s time to use your meal-planning to make the most of your cooking. Make one evening each week a “leftover” night, when you’ll repurpose, eat, or freeze the meals that would otherwise go bad and end up in the trash.

Plan around your life

As the famous saying goes, life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans – take this into account even for this simple aspect of your life. Some weeks at work will be more hectic than others, while your kids might be away for a school trip for a few days on some other week. Make your meal plans work for you, and schedule, prep, and cook based on your availability and the rest of your schedule.

All meals matter

It’s too easy to skip breakfast when you’re in a hurry to prepare for a job interview or drive your kids to school, but planning ahead should help you keep track of all main meals of the day. When there’s no time to make breakfast, there should be some Greek yogurt, dried fruit, nuts and seeds waiting, so it only takes a few stirs and your breakfast is ready. Using leftovers will also help, since you can repurpose meals from the day before for your next day’s dinner.

Delegate

Even if you’re the foodie expert in your family, that’s no excuse for the rest of the gang not to take part in the process, especially when it’s time to pitch new ideas, keep track of the food calendar, and thaw the food when the schedule says its time.

Plan your snacks

These sneaky little buggers are often the key culprit of weight gain and various health issues, but you can prevent them by always having some healthy options at hand. Fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit are always better than a sugar-loaded muffin from the store.

 

With a diverse menu on your hands and some practice, you’ll quickly master the art of meal planning and make your cooking sessions a much easier process both on your time and your wallet.

 

Peter is a frugal living and lifestyle writer for Voice Boks magazine. Follow Peter on Twitter for more tips.

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family-friendly and healthy meal planning tips

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Get Your Sh*t Together Day: The Secret to Getting Things Done

how to get it all done, how to do it all, how to be efficient, efficiency tips, working mom tips, time management, meal planning, meal prep, time management

Have you ever wondered how to “get it all done”?  Or if “getting things done” was even possible? I work full-time, I’m a wife and mommy to two very active little boys, and I’m building this blog into a full-time gig. There is never enough time for all the things I want to, but I have had a lot of people ask about my time management systems that help me reach my goals and accomplish all my tasks on the daily.

The thing is, I didn’t always get everything done. I used to be extremely disorganized, a hardcore procrastinator, and okay with just surviving my days. I thought being late or disorganized or constantly behind was fine (even normal) because I was working and had a baby, but I realized the legacy I was teaching my son was just to survive. I decided just surviving wasn’t going to be one of the life lessons I wanted to leave my son, and I could actually accomplish so much more with my life if I just applied a small amount of diligence and time management. Discipline and reaching smart goals are definitely traits I want to teach!

With a little big of planning, I’ve figured out how to actually put the tedious parts of life on autopilot to create space for the best moments. I call this weekly practice my  “Get Your Sh*t Together” (or GYST day), and it’s become my favorite day of the week!

I realized that the things that took up the most time in my week were small, mundane events I had been avoiding or didn’t plan ahead for during the week. Since Monday is a new work week, Sunday seemed like the best time to GYST.

Between my family, my work, and building this blog, a lot of my time and energy is focused on big things. I tend to procrastinate the shorter tasks during the week (like paying bills, renewing library books, etc). I know they are important and only take a tiny amount of time, but for whatever reason I’m just not as likely to take the time to do them during the week.

The Secret to Getting Things Done

Basic Food Prep

My GYST days start with food, because of course it does. I loooooooove food! And coffee. But you already knew that.

We usually do our grocery shopping on Saturdays, so I start off Sundays with a fully stocked kitchen. I go through all the groceries and create a basic (flexible) meal plan and start to prep some breakfast foods.


Easy, Healthy Meal Plans

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I like to have plenty of options ready for me to create a big meal quickly. Typically, my breakfast involves my coffee, a smoothie, and some sort of baked goods. On Sundays I like to do all my baking for the week, so I’ll usually make at least one batch of muffins or breakfast bread (usually either pumpkin or banana, depending on what I have on hand). Once the batter goes in the oven, I clean up the kitchen and will either start a batch of brown rice or throw a few chicken breasts in the Instant Pot.

Related: Top 6 Reasons You Need an Instant Pot

Need some help with meal prep? Download my free ebook, Meal Planning for Busy People!

The Necessary Computer Work

With the food going in the kitchen and the kitchen cleaned up, I’ll sit down and pay the bills. This only takes a few minutes of focused productivity and takes a huge load off my shoulders. It’s amazing how important financial fitness is to mental health!

Since I’m sitting already, now is the time I pull out my planner and look over the week. Any appointments, social events, and deadlines are reviewed and planned for appropriately. I have a running list of blog topics and networking opportunities going on a page in my planner, and I review those and map out the following week. January was all messed up with illnesses, but thankfully we are getting back on track in February and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s safe to say I love routine and I thrive on checking off my to-do lists!

I also take this time to do any necessary paperwork, or prepare mail to be sent. Any important documents, handwritten notes to friends, or blogging paperwork is prepped and ready to be taken to be sent on Monday.

Self Care

After all of this is done, it’s time for some self care. When I was single, Sunday used to be my home spa days. Now with two little boys creating chaos over here, usually the best I can do is maybe a bentonite clay mask and filing my nails. If I get really lucky, sometimes I can get my nails painted, but I only risk that if both boys take a nap at the same time. Whatever I do, it’s important that I set aside at least 5 minutes for something just for me. I’ve noticed a direct relationship between how I feel about myself and how I react to stressful situations or interact with my little family. If I feel gross and run-down, I’m not as patient or giving as when I have taken a minute to prepare myself mentally and put myself together, even if it’s only once a week.

Sometimes my biggest incentive for getting things done is those few minutes of pampering.

The best part about GYST days is that they are relaxing while being incredibly productive. The idea is not to start the week in a stressful way with a long list of to-do items, but to calmly prepare for a good week by getting things done quickly, before they have a chance to cause or become problems.

Obviously, the decision of what to include in your GYST day is completely up to you, but I would recommend at least some basic meal preparation and something for self-care. This sets up your week for success immediately.

The benefits of a GYST day are exponentially increased when you are intentional about each day. Developing a healthy time management practice by creating a functional morning routine and an evening routine gives you even more success and space throughout your days to reach whatever goals you are working towards, and will absolutely skyrocket your productivity (and keep you sane through it all)!

Related: How To Create An Evening Routine That Works

Do you have a weekly routine that helps you? Leave me a comment!

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How to do Laundry Without Hookups Using a Portable Washing Machine

how to do laundry in an apartment without hookups, laundry no hookups, apartment laundry

This is the blog post I was hoping to find four years ago. This is the blog post where I share with you how to do your laundry in an apartment when you don’t have hookups.

Once upon a time, we lived in an apartment without laundry hookups and were determined to use cloth diapers. Since we didn’t want to lug around a basket of stinky diapers around to the laundromat, or sit there with an infant for hours on end, we got creative.

First, we got a laundry pod. This thing looks like a giant salad spinner, fits about 3 diapers at a time, but it does work pretty well. Of course, this process takes pretty much all day if you have more than 3 things to wash. We hung them to dry on folding dryer racks. I usually did laundry every night to keep up with the cloth diaper demand. I did get a pretty good arm workout in, though.

After a few months of hand cranking my child’s cloth diapers, I decided we needed a different option. I did hours of research. Surely, someone had to have come up with a solution for an apartment washing machine, right?

YES!

Portable Washing Machine

This portable washing machine became my new favorite appliance. At 2.5 cubit feet of space, it was big enough to fit our queen comforter, but small enough that I was able to maneuver it around with ease. It also had standard hookup capability, so we were able to use the same machine when we moved to a place with actual washer hookups. We did diapers in what felt like a flash, and hung them to dry. We bought more dryer racks because we could now do all our own laundry in our home. It was so exciting!

Most dryers require a special plug to run, requiring specific wiring (aka, “dryer hookups”). When we arrived in Iowa, our house had washer hookups and a dryer hose vent, but only the standard 110/120V plugs. It was then I found this dryer that can plug in to any standard 3-prong outlet. We were able to donate the drying racks and do all our laundry on our own, in only a matter of hours! We had a vent hookup in the Iowa house, but if you don’t, you can purchase this nifty little lint trap and keep it vented inside.

The biggest difference with apartment-capable washers and dryers is obviously the capacity. The washer we had did not have an agitator in the center, which meant that we were able to fit more in. Everything we washed came out clean, so we didn’t even miss the agitator. The dryer took a little longer than your standard 220V dryer did to dry a load, but that was fine with us since we were finally able to do laundry on our own terms, and multiple loads in the same day.

When we moved into the RV, we sold our washer and dryer, since the RV came with a washer dryer combo unit. We now live in a townhouse with our own laundry room, and we purchased a standard washer and dryer set. Aside from the size difference in capacity, I haven’t really noticed any difference between clothes cleaned in our apartment washer vs. our new traditional one.

As you might imagine, it is less expensive to purchase a portable washing machine and portable dryer than a standard set. The savings are especially high when you consider the time, effort, and money spent per load doing laundry at a laundromat. I love that our portable washing machine and dryer allowed us to do laundry and continue on with our lives, without the need to go back and forth to a laundromat/apartment laundry center or try to entertain little people for hours on end while doing laundry.

If money is tight, sign up for my email list and receive my list of 25 ways to save money in 2018. This isn’t your standard “use coupons at the grocery store” list. These are tough love, actionable ways you can save big money this year. Implement an idea or two and put those savings towards your new system. It will pay for itself very quickly.

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Dress for your Day

Ya’ll, I’m sorry. I’m really bad at this whole posting-every-day-for-the-challenge thing. Especially when big projects at work happen and I come home exhausted and barely able to get through my (almost habit!) evening routine.

The good news is that I’ve been doing the dishes consistently before going to bed! I do love waking up to a clean kitchen. I’ve also been able to read to Tristan consistently and it’s such a special time for me each day!

Day 8 was funny for me. I opened the book and the subject was “dress for your day.” The thought that one good action breeds another must be true because as my evening routine became more routine, I was already mentally planning my outfits for the next morning. Yay me! I don’t lay out my clothes because there’s no real place to put them, but having a mental idea makes the morning so much easier!

I have this one work outfit where I wear grey dress pants, a black sleeveless cowl-neck sweater, and a sparkly black bracelet. The bracelet addition really makes me feel like I have my life together.

Grey and black…yep, I’m officially boring.

Related: Save up to 90% by shopping at ThredUp

When not wearing dress clothes, I prefer a relaxed vibe. I have a toddler and we enjoy long walks to the park (and swinging, and playing soccer, etc). Dressing for my day often means capris and a cute shirt. I loathe and despise tennis shoes, usually opting instead for Toms or ballet flats.

Do you lay out your clothes?

This is Day 8 in a 14-day challenge, Makeover Your Evenings. If you haven’t purchased your course yet, you can do so by clicking here.

 

 

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Why You Need an Evening Routine: The Cure for the Mombie Effect

If you're a tired and busy mom, you NEED this top tip to accomplish your goals without losing your mind!

“Mombie” – a sleep-deprived mom who is barely held together by coffee and yoga pants (or, since I ditched my yoga pants, skinny jeans). 

The other morning, I woke up super late. I hadn’t completed my evening routine the night before, so I (somewhat frantically) rushed through my evening and morning routines and was feeling super proud of myself until I got to work and realized I left my coffee on the counter.

Mornings happen. Sometimes, despite our best intentions, things just go wrong. That’s okay (well, unless you leave your coffee at home, in which case – cry away, my friend)!

Your morning, no matter what time you actually get out of bed, is determined by how you set yourself up the night before.

Easy Evening Routine Ideas

You can give yourself a huge step up each day by completing a few simple tasks the night before:

  • Do the dishes. Waking up to a clean kitchen is instantly energizing.
  • Fill the kettle with water so it’s ready to go first thing in the morning, or get the coffee maker ready to go so you just have to press the on button.
  • Pick out an outfit for the next day. Even jewelry if you’re really feeling crazy.
  • Make sure you have a plan for breakfast the next morning. Through trial and error, we have discovered that homemade muffins are what works the best for us.
  • Pack a healthy lunch (and don’t forget snacks!)

When I consistently complete my evening routines, I free up space in my mornings for extra time with Peter and Tristan, or extra sleeping time if we need it. And since I’m not rushing around, I remember my coffee. Mombie cured.

Are Routines Necessary?

Routines are so key to accomplishing goals. Routines put simple tasks on autopilot for you, so you can create the space to do whatever it is you really want to do.

Want more time with the kids, but feel constantly behind on life? You need a morning and evening routine to make sure you get the most important things taken care of first!

Are you needing to save money but spend too much going out to eat? You need a meal prep routine! (and you also need to download my Meal Planning for Busy People free guide!)

Create Space in Your Days

Routines remove that “what should I be doing next?” fear and instead create space by creating order. For instance, my mornings are much calmer and I am able to accomplish more (like writing this blog post) when I’ve cleaned the kitchen the night before. Because the kitchen task is already taken care of thanks to my evening routine, I have space in my morning to move forward with my blogging goals. Ta-da!

Related: Get Your Sh*t Together: How to Get it All Done

Most of these realizations and habits came when I blogged through MoneySavingMom’s Makeover Your Mornings 14-day course late last year. I’m so excited for the release of her follow-up challenge, Makeover Your Evenings, which goes live tomorrow! I got an early release copy and have been looking through it. I can’t begin to tell you how awesome this course is and how many big things will be happening because of it.

Ready to make over your evenings with me? Sign up here, then leave me a comment to let me know!`

 

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