March is National Nutrition Month, and this year the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is highlighting the theme “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.” By practicing meal planning, you can enjoy healthy meals that fit your tastes and schedule every day. Here are my top seven meal planning tips.
Choose a specific day and time when you will plan your meals for the whole week, and create a calendar or schedule to help you stay organized. Be sure to plan meals that use more perishable ingredients, like fish and fresh greens or berries, near the beginning of the week, and reserve ingredients that will last longer for the end of the week. Set yourself up for success by choosing simple recipes that will fit your schedule, and take into account days when you may not be at home to cook.
Make a master grocery list of all the ingredients you’ll need for the entire week. Take your list to the grocery store, and do all your shopping for the week at once. You’ll avoid last-minute runs to the store for forgotten ingredients, and save valuable time that you can spend cooking and enjoying meals with your family. Plus you’ll save money by preventing impulse buys and superfluous purchases.
Before heading to the store, check your refrigerator and pantry for any ingredients you may already have on hand. Check them off your grocery list to avoid overbuying.
When planning your meals for the week, look at local sales flyers and specials to identify ingredients that may be on sale. Plan meals around high-ticket lean meats, low-fat dairy, and fresh produce items that are on sale to save money while still eating healthy. Stock up on shelf-stable staples, like oil, vinegar, spices and canned products, and stock your freezer with frozen fruits and vegetables when they’re on sale to save even more money.
When making your meal plan for the week, plan for second uses of ingredients that come in large packages or that you won’t use up in one recipe. If you buy a large package of chicken breasts, plan two meals with chicken during the week. Instead of buying two different kinds of fresh herbs, which spoil quickly, use one herb in two different meals.
Cut down on food waste by enjoying last night’s leftovers for an easy lunch. Revamp leftovers, and create a new and inventive recipe for the next night’s dinner. For example, you can use leftover pork roast as a filling for tacos or sandwiches, or add leftover cooked vegetables to a soup, casserole or frittata.
If you find that last week’s meal plan was overambitious, make next week simpler. Build in quick and easy meals, like frozen pizza served with a bagged green salad, or deli rotisserie chicken with refrigerated mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli for those nights when you don’t feel like spending a lot of time over the stove.
Let eMeals simplify your meal planning and help you enjoy dinner with your family every night of the week. We provide weekly meal plans with a coordinating shopping list to take the stress out of meal planning.
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