I am faced with my new reality of less time and more commitments. Gone are the days of deciding what to feed my family based on what I was craving that day — which is how many of my days went while I was staying home with my family for the last year.
While I planned ahead for the basics and had a few meals in mind prior to my weekly grocery shopping trip, the reality was that I had more time to cook meals in between maintaining the home, playing with the kids and making it to their various lessons. That‘s now over. Now I have to add in my full-time job and all that goes with it. Life has just gotten really busy.
Meal planning isn’t new to me, but I’m a bit out of practice. With a little bit of effort I will be back on track.
I find meal planning helps to save money and time, lessen my stress, and also ensures I am feeding my family a balanced diet. Just as important, planning ahead reduces leftovers and wasted food. My goal is to feed my family, not the GreenCart!
Here are some simple tips to making meal planning easier:
- Make a list of meals that your family enjoys and include your family in the discussion.
Include a list for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as snacks. If you find that your list is a little lacking in content, try adding in a few meals that you haven’t tried in a while or recipes from a magazine or website. I tend to keep this list around for when I run out of ideas and I add new meal ideas as they come up.
- Make a plan for the week.
I find it difficult to plan more than a week in advance because each week is different, and I generally only plan for the weekdays — you need to have some spontaneity in life. I look at my week, see our commitments, look at what is on sale and try to pick meals that are quick and build on each other. I sometimes feel that it is like a giant puzzle. I hate feeding the GreenCart, so I try to use ingredients for multiple meals and use the leftovers from one meal in another or use them for lunch the next day.
- Involve your family.
I have small kids, and although they are pretty good eaters, they do not all like everything I put in front of them (although ketchup apparently makes almost anything taste better — sigh). I find it reduces my stress levels to make sure there is something on their plates they will eat (we tend to eat a lot of broccoli — it could be worse). I also refuse to make separate meals.
- Make your grocery list according to your meals.
I find making a list helps me to save money and create less waste. I go through each meal and figure out what I need, check what I have on hand (including stuff I may have frozen for future use such as sauce, meats and veggies). I make sure I have all the basics, a “just in case meal” and only buy what’s on my list. A list also helps me to ensure I am feeding my family a healthy diet and resisting those impulse purchases.
- Follow your plan!
This is easier said than done sometimes. There will always be days when things don’t go as planned — that is where “my just in case meal” that can be prepared in 15 minutes comes in handy (mine tends to be pasta of some sort).
I have found there are some things that make it easier to follow the plan:
- Have frozen veggies in the freezer.
- Find short cuts like making meals or part of meals ahead of time and freeze them (but be mindful of actually using the frozen food before it becomes a GreenCart sacrifice).
- Don’t go too far outside your family’s comfort zone during the week. I tend to do that more on weekends.
- Include kids in the experience!
For more great tips and tricks about healthy meal planning, go to www.eatrightontario.ca.
What tips do you have to help plan family meals that minimize stress and food waste?