If meal planning seems like a daunting task, you are going about it all wrong.
Meal planning can reduce stress and pressure on busy nights if done right. By keeping your meals simple and fresh, you can feed your family at home, even with hectic schedules.
Here are seven tips to help you bring back dinner to your table.
Take time to plan.
Just before the weekend, open up your calendar and list out a meal plan for the next week. Keep the meal plan in your calendar, or take a picture of it, to have on hand. Since breakfast and lunch do not typically vary, dinner is the only meal I plan for. I look at what nights it is possible to cook, and work out meals from there focusing on the main dish.
Also, plan for leftovers. By cooking double, I have to cook only three or four nights a week, and it simplifies my grocery list.
Keep sides simple.
Canned or frozen vegetables, tossed salads, baby carrots, fresh fruit, cottage cheese or a can of baked beans make fast, easy sides. These sides may not be fancy, however they are healthy compliments to the main dish and foods most kids will eat.
Save your recipes.
The most time-consuming part of meal planning is finding ideas, so saving the good ones is worth the few minutes it takes. Technology has made this so much easier than it used to be. Use your phone to take a picture of a recipe and save it.
Take advantage of Pinterest and recipe websites for easy ways to find and file your favorite meals. Keep a binder or folder for paper recipes near your kitchen, or scan paper recipes into your computer.
Make a Fast 5 meal list.
A Fast 5 meal should be ready to eat in less than 5 minutes and include ingredients you can always have on hand.
These meals are a lifesaver, especially when evening plans change at the last minute. Though not glamorous, these meals are balanced, healthy and a much better option than fast food.
My Fast 5 list includes:
• Whole-grain cereal, milk and fruit
• Scrambled eggs, whole-grain toast and fruit
• Refried bean and cheese burritos
• Tuna sandwiches with a side of raw vegetables
• Low-sodium canned soups with grilled cheese sandwiches
Break out the Crockpot.
I love coming home to the smell of a hearty meal. I also have peace of mind knowing my family can eat when they need to, even if I am stuck at the office. If mornings are too hectic, find simple recipes that can be mostly prepped the night before.
Make a list.
Once meals are planned, make a list. A list is crucial for successful meal planning. Group the foods on your list by grocery store sections, lumping together all the dairy products, grains, vegetables and fruits, and meats for easy shopping. Of course, do not forget to add your weekly breakfast, lunch and snack staples.
Finally, get the goods.
If you dread shopping, try the online shopping and delivery or pickup services, now offered at most stores. These services are incredibly convenient, and they have helped me carve out much needed downtime on the weekend. By planning my meals before the weekend, I can schedule my grocery pickup around my kid’s activities saving an extra trip to the store as well.