Planning out your meals on a weekly or monthly basis can be ideal for families. For most of us, life in today’s modern age can be extremely fast-paced between soccer practice, piano lessons and more. Since we’re always going, choosing the fast food options may seem ideal but it could be costing you tons.
Avoid the drive-thru line and grab some groceries instead. It could not only save you money, but save you more time with your family around the dinner table. Now you’re probably thinking this is easier said and done. Today, let’s look at how meal planning can be a healthy option for families and see just how easy it can actually be.
PLAN YOUR MENU
When the alarm doesn’t wake you up, healthy grab-and-go options can turn your stressful morning around in no time. It’s always recommended to buy weekly, especially if you’re purchasing fresh produce and product. Here are some steps towards your weekly planning:
- Shop Your Pantry – Do a thorough check of what’s in your pantry. You should also check your labels to make sure everything is fresh. By doing this weekly, you’ll always maintain a fresh selection of ingredients.
- Read Your Weekly Ad – Every Wednesday, our weekly ad is published with the latest deals and specials in our stores. By reading these ads, you can increase your chances of purchasing items at the best price.
- What’s For Dinner? – If you’re not sure what to cook, visit our recipe sections with ingredients that can be found at our stores. Take the ingredients you have or that or on sale in our weekly ad and plan the menu. Many families write the menu in the kitchen for all to see or prefer making a list. Organization is essential!
- Make a List – Your grocery list is your best friend. Using the tried and true pen and paper or your smart phone can do the trick. Also, sorting your list into sub-categories (Produce, Toiletries, Frozen, etc.) will make the list easy to read.
PREPARE YOUR ENTREES
There are so many benefits to having one (or two) meal prep days during the week, but some of the best things about it is that it saves time, money, and stress, all the while allowing families to stay on track with eating healthy.
Here are a few tips to consider when prepping for the week:
- Pick one day out of your week to spend in the kitchen. Generally prepping can be anywhere from 2-6 hours; depending on your meals. For most people, Sundays are ideal. You can also have your kids involved and make it a time to come together and enjoy the moment.
- Making it for the go? Invest in sustainable tupperware to portion out your meals. You can then label the tupperware with a permanent marker the days of the week, names, etc.
- Invest in freezer bags to properly store your ingredients and meat once it’s been cooked.
- Does the thought of cooking food for the week overwhelm you? Try 1-2 recipes per week and gradually build to a full week. This will help you stay on track and develop this healthy habit.
TIME TO COOK
When it feels like the chopping, frying and grating will never end, just remember you will get a whole week/month/or however many days off of cooking. Now that is a glorious thought! Some key things to consider:
- Cooked meat will last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
- Pasta and rice will last for 3-5 days.
- To learn how to store fruits, read our nutrition tips by Carolyn Bell, RDN.
CROCK POT MEALS
When prepping your crockpot meals you will chop and mix according to recipe but instead of placing items in the slow cooker you will stuff them in your freezer bag. I usually try to pick one step recipes to make the process much easier. Then you simply seal and lay flat to freeze. Laying flat is important because once you have 10 or more you can stack or store them much easier than if they are a giant frozen ball of food.
As for one-dish meals you prep the meal up to the point of putting it in the oven. Instead of baking it you will simply insert your meal into the freezer bag and freeze. Tinfoil pans are ideal for easy cook and cleanup.
For chilly weather dishes, cook the soup fully allowing to completely cool and then divide into freezer bags and lay flat to freeze.
Food for Thought
Meal-prepping is a tried and true habit for many people and can be beneficial in the long run. With our tips and resources, (outbound link to recipes) you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your family.