As seen In Huffington Post
I have been meaning to write about meal-planning for a while. Surprisingly, it has been the craziness of adding a third child to the family has finally spurred me into action. We’ve been flying by the seat of our pants for the past six weeks and the lack of planning has caused us to make many more trips to the store than we typically would. The result of this has been spending more money and wasting time running around. I recently touched base with fellow mompreneur and dietician Robin Glance. She says that setting aside time to plan your meals for the week is a great way to ensure you receive a variety of foods and nutrients from the food groups. It also prevents poor last-minute meal choices such as ordering in or picking up fast food.
If planning out your meals can help save time, save money, and help you to eat healthier. What is not to love?
Have a Flexible Plan
I’ve always been pretty organized but the crazier and busier my life gets the more grateful I am for this skill. Being organized about meals doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be super structured about it. One of the most common pushbacks to meal planning I hear is that people don’t want to be stuck eating a specific meal on a specific day. I totally get that. There are definitely times that I look at our meal plan and think, ugh, I do not want that for dinner tomorrow. So I simply move things around. Instead of having sausage and vegetable penne on Monday, I’ll swap it out with another meal from that week. They key to this is having a flexible meal plan. When thinking about your meals for the week really try to make sure that they are easy to prepare, cook and clean up after. One of the ways I do this without wasting food it using a combination of fresh and frozen ingredients in my meals. This way if the family is not in the mood for beef and broccoli this week, my veggies won’t rot away in the fridge, they’ll just continue to chill out in the freezer until we we are craving that meal the following week. Another key to flexibility is having a back-up go-to family fave that you always have the ingredients for. In our family it’s “make-your-own burritos”. It’s quick and easy and we always have everything we need on hand. Canned black beans, corn, rice, tortillas, guacamole, salsa and cheese. All staples or pantry items, yes, even the guacamole (because I freeze it). If we have peppers and onions on hand I’ll get fancy and saute them to throw in the burritos. But this is a solid, healthy, super quick, go to meal and every household needs one.
Robin also reminded me that it’s important to plan for the side dishes as well. Vegetables should take up half the space on your plate. We recommend at least two different types. Choose fresh salads, steamed, stir-fried or roasted veggies. Stock up with frozen veggies for days you are short on the fresh stuff – they are still packed with nutrients. Robin also suggested some great alternatives to the rice and potato staples. We should try to swap in whole-grain options such as quinoa, barley, spelt and bulgur.
Make a Solid List
The other point I get resistance on is “I don’t have time to meal plan”. I get it. Life is busy. But setting aside 5-10 minutes a week will save you time in the long run. I try to brainstorm meal ideas when I’m driving, watching tv, or messing around on my phone. After planning out the week’s meals It’s important to then prepare your list and plan when you are going to the grocery store. When making your shopping list have the recipes in front of you. Check your fridge, freezer or pantry to really make sure you have every item, and enough of every item you’ll need for the week. I also like keeping a running grocery list on my phone ( I use the ShopShop app).
When it comes to grocery shopping try to limit your trip to one or two stores. I know all the bargain hunters and couponers out there will be appalled by this but for this busy mom it just simply doesn’t make sense to spend all that precious time and gas running from store to store to save 5 cents a pound on grapes. Your time has value too. You would be surprised how much money you’ll save just by having a solid grocery list (and sticking to it).
I’m not saying that meal planning will change your life but it will certainly help you feel more in control of your hectic weeks. As an added bonus it’s always nice to actually have an answer when the kids ask you “what’s for dinner?”!
Happy Organizing and Meal Planning!