By Guest Blogger Danielle Hegedus
What is the saying…fail to plan, plan to fail? Well, that couldn’t be more true when it comes to meal planning. Preparing all of your meals for the week in one day will save you valuable time throughout the week. No more staring into the refrigerator or pantry trying to figure out what to make for dinner, or worse yet, running to the grocery store multiple times to grab last-minute ingredients. Plus, having dinner ready to go when you get home from work or school or carting the kids around to after-school activities means that you can spend more quality time together as a family.
Prepping your meals for the week also helps you to be more mindful of what you and your family are eating. It takes the convenience factor (i.e. fast food and takeout) out of the equation and enables you to prepare tasty and nutritious meals, ensuring that your family gets vital nutrients in healthy-sized portions. If you’re watching your caloric intake or have another specific diet objective in mind, like limiting your sodium, this is a great way to set yourself up for success.
Yes, it may seem daunting to prepare all of your meals for an entire week in just one day, but at Modernize we are convinced that the undeniable benefits of saving time and money, while maximizing the nutritional value of your meals, should at least get you to test it out. Read on for meal prep tips for your busy family.
1. Get Inventive with Meals to Prevent Burnout
With the advent of Pinterest, there’s no reason why you should be eating the same thing every day. Sure, you may have found a recipe that your family enjoys and is easy to prepare, but eat it long enough and you’ll find yourself coming up with every excuse possible to eat out. Sticking with what’s comfortable might also be doing your kids a disservice. They may love your delicious homemade macaroni and cheese, but if you don’t expose them to different foods, you may raise picky eaters who have a difficult time getting their essential vitamins from their food.
Involve your family in the meal planning. Try having them select an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable from the produce department (jicama, anyone?) to incorporate into your meals for the week. Teach them about the risks of heavily processed foods by challenging them to come up with a meal with just five ingredients (most store-bought bread, unfortunately, already has too many ingredients to even consider).
For each meal, try to fill ½ of the plate up with vegetables (leafy greens like kale are full of vitamin C and can reduce your risk of heart disease), ¼ with a lean protein like chicken or turkey, and ¼ with a healthy starch (sweet potatoes, squash, brown rice, quinoa).
2. Stick to Your Grocery List
If you don’t bring junk food into the house, you can’t be tempted by it. Create a grocery list with the items that you will need to prepare your meals for the week. Include healthy snacks like veggies and hummus, cheese, fruit, and granola. If you visit a farmer’s market, you’ll save money on groceries, decrease the amount of food miles (i.e. environmental impact) your family uses, and most likely enjoy a better selection. Plus, farmer’s markets rarely have sugary cereals or candy at the end of every aisle, so that’s another way to stop temptation in its tracks.
3. Carve Out Several Hours to Prepare Meals
Set aside several uninterrupted hours for meal prep. That may seem impossible, but if you try to multi-task, you may end up not cooking something properly, perhaps missing an ingredient or undercooking, and your meal will go to waste if it doesn’t taste good. If you can, try to grocery shop on the day before you meal prep just to give yourself a little break because this is a large undertaking. Involve your family in the process to make it go much more quickly and to help demystify certain foods for your kids. They may not like the way a vegetable lasagna looks, but if they find that they like all of the ingredients that go into it, they may be willing to give that mysterious looking dish that comes out of the oven a try.
Streamline the cooking process by choosing simple meals that don’t require a lot of ingredients—the five-ingredient challenge can help. Make your oven do double, and even triple duty, by seasoning meat with different spices (as pictured) all at once. Also, don’t forget to have plenty of functional containers ready to store your prepared meals.
Meal planning can really make your life a lot easier while helping you to make good nutrition choices. You may want to start slow, prepping your breakfast (chia pudding with fruit soaked in the fridge overnight is delicious) and lunch (mason jar salads) for a week and building up to the more major cooking. Once you start to reap the benefits of more time and money, not to mention your deliciously prepared food, we’re sure you’ll want to implement meal planning as standard practice for all of your family’s meals.
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