Meal Planning for a Busy Family

Meal planning for a busy family is a challenge but the payoff is worth it. This article offers tips and ideas to ensure your family eats healthy and looks forward to every meal.

Meal Planning 101

Meal planning has many benefits for you and your family. It's a great stress reliever to know everyone is eating a balanced diet and getting all the nutrition they need. You can also save money and time by creating a shopping list and searching flyers for the best prices at nearby grocery stores. For kids, meal planning can be a fun experience. By giving them a say in what the family eats, you're helping them learn responsibility — and they may even become more adventurous eaters. 

How to Plan Meals

Meal planning doesn't have to be difficult. Make it part of your routine by setting aside some time each week. To help you stay organized, designate a place in your home for storing weekly flyers and coupons. You'll need inspiration, so keep cookbooks on hand to flip through and go online to check out recipe websites. Brainstorm with the family to come up with a list of low calorie meals and healthy snacks for the week. When you're stuck for a meal idea, go with a family favourite, but add a twist to keep it interesting.

Involve the Family

You're more likely to succeed in meal planning if everyone likes the food you're serving. Ask your kids to list their favourite healthy foods and even supply menu ideas for specific meals. While it's impossible to please everyone all of the time, you can find easy recipes and quick dinner ideas that let kids help with the cooking too. From time to time, you may need to negotiate compromises with family members who like foods that others don't.

Make a Meal Planner

A great way to start each week is to record your meal plan. You can create your own or download a meal planner application to your smartphone, laptop or tablet. For each meal, fill in the name of the meal and the ingredients. You can also include special instructions or reminders, such as when to begin defrosting frozen ingredients. In no time, you'll have a solid blueprint for your next week of meals.

Make a Shopping List

Meal planning only works if you have the right food ingredients on hand when you need them, which means shopping for them ahead of time. It's a good idea to use your weekly meal plan as a guide for your shopping list. Your list should obviously include all the special ingredients (such as perishables) that you need for the week. But you should also check the cupboards for things like flour and spices that don't often run out. By creating a shopping list before you head to the grocer, you're more likely to stay on budget and keep your family on a healthy diet.

Save Money

One of the best reasons to become a meal planner is to save money. Online coupons and weekly flyers are a good place to start. Become a collector and plan meals around sales on the food items you like. As a meal planner, you will have a good idea of how much perishable food to buy each week. This should translate to less waste and more money in your pocket. Since you're planning ahead, you can look for opportunities to cook in bulk and freeze family servings for later use. Cooking in bulk lets you take advantage of sales and reduces food wastage.
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