Tip of the Week
Meal planning sounds like a daunting task — you have no time to cook one good meal during the week, let alone plan out seven of them (or more if you’re counting for breakfast and lunch), so why bother?
The act of meal planning is actually quite simple, if you stick to it. And meal planning provides for healthier options. Aside from cutting calories, look forward to also cutting down on your weekly grocery budget soon.
Meal planning also isn't just for big families with lots of hungry mouths.
“It's just been my husband and me for our entire married life, and I always plan meals,” says Linda Larsen, Busy Cooks guide at About.com. “If you don't plan them, even if you're living alone, you're at the mercy of impulse buys and the drive-thru window. It's so easy to just order a pizza if you don't have a plan, and your budget and waistline will suffer.”
Larsen offers some tips on getting started:
1. Decide what you want to eat. “When formulating a meal plan, think about the food you have in the house, what you're going to be doing during the week, and the food your family likes. Take the weather into consideration too; you'll want different recipes for really hot days and cold days,” Larsen says. Plan some meals around grocery sales. Sift through recipes to get ideas, but largely, keep with the familiar. “Kids are more comfortable with foods they've seen before,” Larsen adds. “It can take up to 12 introductions to a new food before a child will generally even take a bite, let alone eat the whole thing.”
2. Have your grocery list ready. Pick main dishes first, then sides and desserts. Gather your recipes, mark off foods you have in the house and put the ones you need on a list in the order of where you’d find them in the store. “I try to never shop without a list, because I'll always forget something. Impulse buys are pretty much guaranteed if you shop without a list, too,” Larsen says.
3. Involve the family. If you have kids, a partner or roommate, have them take part in meal planning and grocery shopping. If you have a garden, give them an area to plant foods. While family input is important, make sure you balance out the menus with protein, whole grains, fruits, veggies and healthy fats.
4. Use those leftovers. Think about different ways you can use proteins in a week. For example, grill a steak one night, and save some of the meat to make a steak salad for the next night with baby spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, red bell peppers and salad dressing. Delicious dinners also make for great lunch leftovers.
— Amber Krosel, More Content Now