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Six Steps to Meal Planning
We hear a lot about healthy eating, making foods at home, eating as a family. But if it's something you're not used to. How do you get started? Like many things, you start with the planning. It's not as hard as it seems. It really does take just a little bit of prep and planning. I'm going to provide you six tips today that will give you the tools you need to do exactly that. And remember, if your family's helping you, they're more likely to suggest recipes they like and more likely to eat what they've helped prepare.
Step One Print out and create a meal planning worksheet
Meal planning doesn't have to be boring. You can be creative, and you can show your creativity in your meal prep. Most of us only have about ten or twelve recipes that we really make on a regular basis. Maybe you want to plan out those few recipes, but maybe you also want to research and find some new ones. Think about your family schedule for the next week. How many people will you need to cook for? How much time will you have to prepare meals? Is there special equipment or recipes that you'll need to use this week? Note all of this on your plan.
Step Two Check for foods that you already have on hand
Check the refrigerator, freezer, and shelves in the pantry for the main ingredients and other things that need to be used up. Write these under “On Hand” on your list.
Step Three Review the items that you have on hand
With your families likes and dislikes in mind, think about ways you can use these foods for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner as you assign the on-hand items to meals or snacks. Cross them off your list of on hand. Do you need to buy any other items to complete the meal? If so, put those items on your grocery list.
Step Four Check for grocery specials
At our house, my husband doesn't cook. We've made the arrangement that if I cook, he cleans up, which is a great arrangement to have it any home. He also loves to clip coupons and he loves to save at the grocery store. He loves to get the specials and the ads and combine that for the least amount of money that will be spent on our groceries each week. If you don't get the grocery ads through the mail, you can usually download them from the store's Web site or app as you spot items that are on sale. Make note of the ones you're interested in, and are on sale, on your planning list, then work them into your menus for the week.
Step Five Review your meals for Variety
Aim to have something from each of the food groups in most of your meals. This is the simplest way to make sure your meals are healthy. It's also a smart idea to plan for leftovers. For example, if you're making a big pot of spaghetti on Monday, work it into your meal plan later in the week to make sure it doesn't go to waste.
Step Six Stay within your budget
It's perfectly fine to use your food dollars as you need each week. If you happen to find yourself under your budget, and there are good specials on items your family uses regularly, try to stock up. If you stick to this method, these bargains will be put to good use before you know it.