Seven Tips for Easy Meal Planning

September marks the start of a new school year with busy schedules and after school commitments.  Most families begin ramping up their pre- planning, hoping to make the adjustment from laid back summer to structured school year seamless. One area that may seem to take a backseat to a busy day is meal planning.  A busy schedule of after school activities and shuttling kids around to different events often equates to meals on the run and the dreadful drive thru.  When it comes to nutrition, the drive thru is the worst possible idea and it can be avoided.

If you think about it, you are already planning your week with school, sports and maybe even scouts, so it makes sense to plan your meals too.  Even though you may feel overwhelmed at the thought of meal planning with your busy schedule, I’ll share my tips that make meal planning easier than you think.  It just takes a little effort, but is well worth it when you can feed your family healthy nutritious meals.

  • Take inventory of what you already have in your freezer and pantry. This will serve as a starting point for your meal planning.  It’s best to know what you have on hand to determine what you need to pick up at the grocery store.
  • Once you have taken stock of what you have plan your first meal. Start with a protein and then add in your side dishes to round out the meal.
  • Now that you have planned the first meal, plan a few more meals and then plan the rest. Do not forget the value of leftovers. They are easy options on nights with a lot happening.  It is also one less meal to think about.
  • Along with planning dinners, remember to plan snacks and lunches the whole family will enjoy.  Create a list of things that healthy and easy to grab on the go.  If you have snacks on hand, there will be no reason for anyone to go four or more hours without eating.
  • Your plan is in place, great! The next step is to shop. Using your meal plan and pantry inventory head to the store and pick up items you do not already have. Your list is your friend and it will keep you from over buying.
  • After shopping, it is time to prepare for the week. This means washing fruits and veggies to save time later. This task doesn’t have to fall all on you. Your children can help with age appropriate tasks. Little ones can wash veggies and fruits, while older children can help prep veggies for recipes by slicing or dicing them.  It may also help to keep on hand storage containers to pre-portion snacks.  The 21-Day Fix ™containers are just the thing to make portion control easy too.
  • A great tip for busy families is to plan meals that serve double duty, dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow.  A big pot of turkey chili will serve a family for dinner and lunch easily.  If you think of it as cooking once and eating three times, you will make your meals go farther.

Meal planning takes the guesswork out of dinners and helps avoid the panic attacks that come when you have no clue what you are feeding your family for dinner.  If you commit to meal planning once a week, it will be become habit and in turn make your busy life a lot easier.  Most importantly, it lets you focus on bringing your family together for a meal and enjoying each other’s company.


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