Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Meal Planning: Save Time & Money and Eat Healthier

We've all been in there. It's dinner time, the kids and your spouse are hungry. You're severely lacking the energy required to prepare a well-balanced, healthy meal after a long day of work.  Like the rest of us, you fall back on an old standby. Quick and easy dinners like mac and cheese and frozen chicken nuggets rear their nutritionally deficient heads. Perhaps you resort to a fast food fiasco like pizza or burgers. It's not that you want to feed the family junk, there simply isn't time to do otherwise.  In order to avoid such a calamity, consider meal planning.  By planning and preparing ahead of time, you will save money, time, and allow for the whole family to eat healthier.

How Meal Planning Saves Time

By planning your meals at the beginning of the week, you know what you're going to be serving ahead of time on any given night.  This eliminates the time spent rushing around like a crazy person trying to throw a meal together or waiting for frozen mystery meat to defrost in the microwave.  There will be no reason to rush to the grocery store for something last minute or visit a drive through, which costs you more valuable time after work. 

How Meal Planning Saves Money

Unless you are super disciplined, each trip to the grocery store results in impulse buys.  By only making one trip you'll cut back on this extra spending.  Planning involves taking an inventory of your pantry and refrigerator, so you won't buy what you already have. Looking ahead at weekly sales gives you the opportunity to save even more at the register.

How Meal Planning Means Eating Healthier

Making a menu beforehand allows you the time needed to prepare in advance for lower calorie and lower fat dishes.  Planning lets you dust off your healthy cook books and revisit recipes you've pinned online, but haven't had the chance to make yet. You can look for hearty ingredients and incorporate more vegetables, instead of adding a side of fries to the meal.  Planning a menu allows for portion control that you will not get in a restaurant where they often serve three times the amount of food needed.  Don't forget that reduced stress over the meal construction means as much for your well being as much as eating healthy does.

Tips For Meal Planning

  • Know your family's schedule ahead of time.  If it's a busy week, make dishes that can be cooked on the stove and stand for a while, so that kids coming in at different times can help themselves.

  • Take an inventory of your cabinets and refrigerator.  Not only will you avoid buying what you already have, this will give you ideas to incorporate into your meals.

  • Review the supermarket ads that come out over the weekend for sales and coupons.

  • Buy local produce as it is better for you when fresh and in season.

  • After you shop, draft a menu with the family. Involving the kids means they will be satisfied with the meals throughout the week.  Hang it where it won't get lost and can easily be referred to over the next seven days.

  • Mix things up weekly and try new dishes to keep it interesting, but don't throw past menus away.  They will be a handy reference for the future if you run out of ideas.


Do you plan your meals? Please post your best tips below.


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