Meal planning is a great way to ensure that you and your family are getting well-balanced meals, and it can save you both time and money!
Call me crazy but I love to cook and meal plan. I’m sure you’re thinking “of course you do, you’re a dietitian!” Yes, that probably has something to do with it, but I truly believe it’s all in how you look at it. If you embrace the idea and look at it as an opportunity to try new things, eat healthfully, and bring your family/friends together, you may find that you enjoy it as well.
Here are the top three reasons why you should consider meal planning:
1. It saves time. Here’s how: Try batch cooking- make extras to freeze for a meal the following week or for lunch the next day; it can be a huge time saver! As you meal plan make your grocery list and do all of your grocery shopping in just one trip. When you have a plan, you can be efficient with your cooking. Boil the beets for tomorrow’s dinner as you catch up on an episode of your favorite TV show or chop all your vegetables and bake all the chicken you need for the week on a day that you know you’ll have a little extra time. Start building a weekly meal plan library by saving your work on your computer and re-use your meal plans in the future.
2. It saves money. As you meal plan, look for budget friendly recipes. With a quick Google search for budget friendly recipes and/or meals, you’ll be hard pressed not to find some that you like. Choose recipes that incorporate ingredients that you already have on hand or that can be used in another meal that week. As you meal plan, you’ll create your grocery list. Having a grocery list can help to reduce the likelihood of impulse buying as you shop, allow you to buy staple ingredients in bulk, and prevent last minute dining out that often occurs when there’s a lack of meal planning and preparation.
3. It promotes health. A well-balanced meal is full of color, taste, texture, and of course, nutrition. Balancing a plate of lean protein, vegetables, whole grains, fruit, and low-fat dairy is chocked full of all the vitamins and minerals you need to be at your healthiest. Of course a perfectly balanced plate doesn’t just happen, it takes a little planning to make it that way!
Don’t be surprised if you experience a powerful and rewarding feeling as you meal plan and provide healthy meals for you and your family. I find that my meal planning efforts make for relaxed family meals where we enjoy healthy and delicious food along with each other’s company. Just a little work up front saves me a lot of time and hassle during the week. I’m even to the point where I look forward to meal planning. With all of the cookbooks and online resources available, there’s always something new to learn or try. I hope these tips inspire your to consider meal planning and cooking at home just a little more often.
For more information and tips, visit the web site HealthyEating.org for personalized cooking advice, recipe recommendations, and grocery shopping and meal planning tools. Stay tuned for The Art of Meal Planning: Part 2!