When your family has a calendar full of after school activities and weekend events, planning healthy meals your family will enjoy eating can be a challenge. However, taking a few minutes each week to plan and research recipes that fit your schedule can save you time, reduce food costs and help your family eat healthy, nutritionally balanced meals.
Decide what types of meals fit your schedule
First, look at your schedule for the next week and note how much time you have to prepare meals each day. Decide which days you will prepare meals fresh at home. If there is a particular evening when you will be very short on time, that maybe the evening you want to plan to prepare a slow cooker meal or heat up a homemade freezer meal you have thawed in the refrigerator. If you have at least one afternoon a month to spend preparing your family’s favorite recipes and freezing them in meal-sized portions, freezer meals are a good way to reduce the number of times a month you eat out.
Strategize your meal-planning to save time and money
Now that you know what types of meals you need, decide what you will prepare. One money-saving strategy is to check the grocery store ads to see what ingredients are on sale that week and select some recipes that use those items. Keep an inventory of what is in your pantry and freezer, so you know what you already have on hand to combine with the on-sale fresh items like meat, vegetables and fish. Keep a supply of frozen items that can be put together as an ‘emergency meal’ for situations where you are stuck at home.
Another effective strategy is to find recipes that use common ingredients, where the leftovers from one recipe could be the basis for the next day’s meal. For example, the leftovers from grilling chicken one evening could be the basis for chicken enchiladas the next. Along with this, reduce food costs by planning the meals in a way that ensures the fresh ingredients are used first and you don’t end up forgetting to use them. For example, don’t buy more fresh meat that you can use in the day or two after you buy it unless you plan on freezing some of it.
- Free meal-planning apps like Cozi Meals, Recipe Box and Mealime will help you find new recipes and provide a calendar to keep track of what you have planned for each day of the week or month. Many provide a grocery list of items needed to prepare the meals.
- Yummly has one of the widest varieties of recipes and even helps track nutritional information.
- Some apps like Fridge Check and Fresh Box help you keep an inventory of what is in the pantry, so that you don’t buy items you already have.
- There are even apps like Family Freezer that help you plan a month’s work of freezer meals.
- Pinterest allows you to broadly search for recipes based on keywords such as “fast chicken dinners” or “recipes using lime.”
Having a busy schedule does not mean your family cannot eat at home. In fact, eating meals together helps you stay connected to your kids. Make meal-planning fun for the family by asking your kids to select which recipes in the meal plan they would like to help you make.