Meal planning is an essential part of a healthy family. By planning weekly meals and eating at home, you can save time, control your portions, and avoid eating hidden calories. Additionally, family meals eaten at home are often less expensive and more healthful. Here are a few meal planning tips to get you started.
Get the whole family involved.
You can start by getting the whole family involved. Ask for meal ideas from everyone in the family. When you involve others in the planning process, especially kids, they are more apt to eat what is prepared. They might even consider helping with meal prep and cleanup if they were involved in the planning. With everyone included in the plan making, you’ll take some of the guesswork out of it. Plus, you’ll bring the family together by making the whole process of meal time inclusive to everyone.
Plan a day for planning.
Once you have everyone on board with helping, commit to a definite day/time for meal planning. Literally schedule time in on the family calendar, and don’t ignore your commitment. When you’re first starting out, planning a week’s worth of meals in advance may seem daunting. Once you have a system in place and get into a regular routine, the process will move in sync with your daily routine, and in no time you’ll be reaping the rewards of saving money, sticking to healthful meals, and finding more free time available to dedicate to your family. While you’re adding the planning time to your calendar, go ahead and a shopping date to the calendar right away too!
Make a few lists.
The best way to keep on track with your meal planning is to become a list maker. Make lists of your meals, of the groceries you need, and of the foods already stocked in your cupboards. These lists may seem tedious at first, but once you’ve got your planning rhythm, these lists will keep you on track with knowing exactly what to get at the store, and what you already have at home. Being organized with lists will help you resist impulsive purchases at the grocery store, and avoid wasteful spending on items you already have on hand or simply don’t need. If paper and pen list making just isn’t your thing, there are great meal planning apps available, too.
Plan for snacks too.
While you’re in the process of planning all three meals a day, go ahead and plan snacks too. If you don’t plan ahead, and someone is needing a snack between meals, it will be all too easy to grab some quick junk food. Or to go to the cupboard and grab something needed for an upcoming meal only to have it disappear before that meal. By planning snacks, too, you will choose more healthful snacks to keep on hand and save some money while you’re at it.
Know your favorites.
Remember those lists we just mentioned? Here’s another one to add: a master list of 10-20 of your family’s favorite meals. Keep this list of meals, along with their ingredients, handy for meal planning time. This can be your go-to list when you’re struggling to come up with ideas, or for weeks when you know you’ll be crunched for time. Since you’ll already be familiar with making these meals, they will be quick to prepare. And chances are the ingredients will be of those that you regularly add to your shopping list.
When you first decide to take on meal planning it can seem like a daunting task. Once you get into the habit and form a weekly routine using these meal planning tips, it’ll become second nature. Next thing you know, everyone will be pitching in on the task. Your family will become healthier together, and just might end up with spare change to set aside for some family fun.
Still looking for more meal planning tips? Check out this blog post on stocking your kitchen for quick and healthy meals.