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Three Steps for Successful Meal Planning

By planning your meals ahead of time, you can create delicious nutritious meal that fit your food preferences and lifestyle

Step 1: Create your Menu

What type of meal planning approach do you prefer?

  • Weekly or monthly plan?
  • Do you want to make meals ahead of time or just before the meal. Maybe you want to do a combination of both.
  • Do you want to make all of your meals for the week on one day and store them in the freezer?
  • Are there any special nutritional needs for you or your family?

Once you have decided on the meal planning approach, you will want to create your menu.  You can use a meal planning template or put your menu on your phone or computer.  To start, I recommend using the recipes that your family already enjoys. You can always look up some new recipes but make sure that you have the cooking utensils needed for that recipe.

Ask your family to help out with the meal planning. Take a look to see what ingredients you already have and use them first. Before going to the store, look at the sales flyer. Foods that are in season are less expensive.

It is important to have a variety in meals. Every meal does not need to be different. You will want to have a few different options for the week. If you have leftovers, think about whether you will freeze them or put them in the refrigerator. Frozen meals will generally last longer than those that are refrigerated.

At the end of the week, ask your family if they enjoyed the meals. Ask them if they have any suggestions for the next week. You may want to also keep notes about the menu. Did it work well? Is there anything that needs to be changed?

Step 2: Stock Your pantry, cabinets, refrigerator, and or freezer

It is important to keep meal planning staples on hand. In addition to the staples, you need to include food from the five food groups that are listed below:

Grains: Oatmeal, buckwheat, whole-grain cereals, barley, farro, quinoa, rice-long grain-short grains, basmati, and brown rice. Pasta’s such as spaghetti, ziti, and penne. Whole grain pasta is another option.

Vegetables: Canned tomatoes in stock (diced, crushed, whole, stewed). Use them in soups, stews, sauces, casseroles and more! Also, pick up a bottle of your favorite spaghetti sauce. Dried mushrooms are another great pantry item because they can add depth of flavor to your meals. Frozen vegetables of all kinds.

Fruits: Raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricots and other dried fruits are loaded with dietary fiber. They can be added to your morning breakfast, midday salad and dinner grains. Frozen fruits to make smoothies.

Protein: Stock up on canned or dried lentils, black, pinto, cannellini, garbanzo and kidney beans. Cooked beans can be tossed into salads, soups, stews and other dishes. Canned tuna, anchovies and sardines are a quick way to add protein, healthy fats and flavor to meals. You can freeze lean meats, poultry, & salmon.

Milk and Dairy Products: All types of milk. Dried milk can be used in coffee or tea. Boxed milk is also available in single-serving packages and is a great item for lunch boxes. Evaporated milk, available in cans in the baking aisle, can be substituted for liquid milk in most recipes.

Other items to include are:

Oil and vinegar: Extra virgin olive oil, peanut, sesame, oil.Vinegar including white, balsamic, and cider.

Condiments: Ketchup, mustard, relish, pickles

Stock: Vegetable, chicken, and beef

Herbs and spices: All types in small containers

Flax and other seeds: Flax and chia

Step 3: Grocery List

It is helpful to keep a running grocery list in a convenient place to write down items you need as soon as you run out. You can use the notes feature on your phone or use a shopping app.