5 Steps To Successful Meal Planning
Filling seven days with healthy, home-cooked meals can feel intimidating. But a little advance planning goes a long way in helping you pull off a weekly family meal plan. Here’s how to make it happen for your household:
1.Shop your stock.
Take a day each week to organize. Peruse your cabinets to see what you already have on hand. Make note of staples you’re low on—such as whole wheat pasta, unsalted canned vegetables, and frozen seafood—and keep an eye out for sales and special prices when you shop.
2. Decide on your dishes.
Consult the list of foods you already have, along with grocery store ads and your coupon file. Using those ingredients, create a list of five to seven easy-to-prepare, nutritious main courses.
Popular options include tacos, spaghetti, stir-fries, salads, oven-baked chicken, casseroles, and slow-cooker stews. Search for more ideas in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Mixing Bowl at www.whatscooking.fns.usda.gov.
3. Work out your week.
Slot your meals into different days on the calendar. Keep your schedule in mind. Choose simple, tried-and-true favorites for busy nights. Save new menus or complicated recipes for less hectic times, such as weekends.
One time-saving step: Match up main ingredients and cook them in large batches. The same grilled chicken can star in salads on Tuesday and fajitas on Friday. Black beans or ground beef can fill Thursday’s taco shells and Sunday’s stew bowls.
4. Line up your list.
Write down any ingredients you’ll need to purchase. Organize them by grocery store aisle.
Add a few basics that can give new life to leftovers. For instance, greens can turn leftover salmon into a seafood salad. Canned beans and tomatoes transform uneaten chops into pork chili.
5. Plan your prep work.
After you’ve shopped, consider what you can do to make the rest of the week go smoothly. For instance, wash, peel, and chop vegetables for a meal you’re making tomorrow.
Also, consider making extra batches of entire dishes, such as pasta, soups, and stews. Freeze them in family-sized portions before or after cooking for an easy weeknight meal.