Meal Planning to the Rescue!
Story by Angie Sutton, http://www.mothersapronstrings.com
I love this time of year because it seems like we have an excuse for eating in a different way. Often we find ourselves dining at the picnic table outside or grabbing a bite on our tailgate at the ballpark. The central theme to these meals seems to be ease of preparation, portability and quick to eat!
It would be easy to talk ourselves into the local drive-through menu or make a call to the pizza place. I find myself giving the same speech many times and it goes something like this, “just because we are rushed doesn’t mean we can’t eat healthy.” I wistfully watch as we pass by the drive-through option on the way the softball game. Eating healthy can be a challenge and when you are a mom juggling a summer schedule it can be especially tough.
I make it work in our home by shaping a weekly meal plan. A solid meal plan means no more mid-week grocery trips or last-minute pantry meal concoctions based on whatever is on hand. I rotate meals based on different types of meat and protein. Once I have a weekly plan organized, I put it in the rotation for the future. This system can save you both time and money at the grocery store!
I’ve compiled a few tips to help streamline your meal planning!
1. Carve out 30 minutes to make a meal plan for the week ahead. Slow cooker meals, casseroles and grill recipes work well. This eliminates the stress associated with last minute decision making. Anticipate activities on each night so you know the amount of time you have or if your family will be eating in shifts. Slow cooker meals are perfect for shift eating and casseroles that can be assembled the night before and simply baked the next night are best for tight timelines.
2. Craft a menu that allows you to stretch one meal to two meals. For instance, pork loin on Monday night and use the leftovers for shredded pork tacos on Tuesday night.
3. Purchase ground beef in bulk and brown it on Sunday night. Refrigerate what you need for Monday’s or Tuesday’s meals and freeze the rest in one pound portions. Season the beef according to your recipe as you brown it to save even more time.
4. Buy convenience starters such as chopped frozen onions to save preparation time. Most freezer aisles offer all types of chopped vegetables as well as seasoned mixes to get you on your way quicker. If you have a garden, dice and freeze your own to save money!
5. Build your own 3-ring binder recipe book with recipes and meal plans that work well for your family. Make notes on the recipes indicating how you altered the recipe or what you’d like to add or change the next time. This book can be your go-to resource. I have another section in my book for recipes I’ve clipped or printed that I’d like to try.
6. I sketched a map of my local grocery store and over the course of a few trips compiled a list of what items are in which aisles that are typically on my weekly shopping list. Then I organized the list on my computer and have an electronic grocery checklist to click on as I build my weekly meal plan.
7. How often are you asked, in triplicate, “What’s for dinner?” At Sutton Central I post the menu for the week ahead. My family seems satisfied to know what they will be eating and less apt to suggest eating out. They can even note if they are eating later so I can save an extra plate.