Is one of your 2021 resolutions to become healthier? One of the easiest ways to accomplish that goal is meal planning. One of the best ways to keep my family organized and help answer the “What’s for dinner, Mom?” question is creating a weekly meal plan. I post our dinner plan on the refrigerator so everyone can see it.
Why should I meal plan?
Here are the top 5 reasons to meal plan (and to keep it going for all of 2021).
- Improve Your Nutrition – Planning your meals means you can be sure to include all of the food groups, especially fruits and vegetables. Use myplate.gov to see the recommended amount of each food group.
- Save Money — Meal planning helps eliminate the last-minute fast-food drive-thru run or order pizza delivery. Sticking to your meal plan while grocery shopping can help you avoid impulse buys.
- Save Time — Planning weekly can save time by going to the grocery store once instead of multiple trips for the forgotten item. You can also cook a larger meal like chili or pasta to have leftovers for a day when you do not feel like cooking.
- Decrease Stress — The daily “What’s for dinner?” question can be constant stress in your life. This is easily prevented with a plan and displayed so everyone in the household can see it. You can reuse the plan and the grocery lists to alleviate even more stress.
- Eat Delicious Food — Planning means that you can try the recipe you have had your eye on that may require a bit more time. You can create meals like TV chefs instead of pulling out chicken nuggets from the freezer.
Yes, I want to start meal planning but how?
Start by taking the following resources from myplate.gov to help you. Print out the Meal Plan Calendar and Meal Plan Grocery List. Then take your family’s favorite recipes and fill in the blanks. If this is your first-time meal planning, start with just dinners for one week. Then build your meal planning skills each week by planning more meals throughout the day. Once you have the recipes for one week, make your grocery list. Then shop your list. Finally, cut up any ingredients and store them in your refrigerator until you are ready to cook your meal.
Example Dinner Meal Plan using the myplate.gov Kitchen Recipes:
Sunday: Beef Pot Roast served with mashed potatoes, side salad
Monday: One Pan Spaghetti served with garlic bread and a side salad
Tuesday: Taco Soup served with shredded lettuce and low-fat sour cream
Wednesday: Anytime Pizza served with a side salad
Thursday: Oven Roasted Chicken served with mashed potatoes and a side salad
Friday: Flavorful Fried Rice served with additional mixed vegetables
Saturday: Skillet Catfish served with rice and mixed vegetables
Read through each recipe and write down which items you will need to get from the grocery store. Sticking to the list while you are in the grocery store will help prevent overspending on items you do not need. Post the menu for the week in a place where everyone in your house will be able to see it. This will help everyone know what the dinner plan is for the week.
Check out the Start Simple app from myplate.gov for a digital approach to healthy meal planning.
Do you need some dinner inspiration? Check out these resources from the library. Happy meal planning!