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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.
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.
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.
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.
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