Healthy Family Meal Planning
Planning healthy meals can be difficult and time consuming, but with some advance planning and some basic knowledge of nutrition, it is easy to create a week's worth of healthy meals that everyone in the family will love.
The key to creating delicious, healthy meals for the family is planning, planning and planning. Meal planning for the week's meals ahead of time is the best way to create a meal plan you can be proud of, while keeping cost and time commitment to a minimum.
Convenience devices such as slow cookers and microwaves can be a huge time saver when planning and preparing meals. There are many delicious and healthy recipes that can be started in the morning and left to cook all day in a crock pot or slow cooker. These are great choices for working families.
In addition, making the meals ahead of time on the weekend and heating them in the microwave is a great way to stretch both your food and your time. There are many microwavable healthy meals you can make at home, and single serving microwave safe containers allow every member of the family to eat on their own schedule.
When planning the meals for the week, it is a good idea to create a chart listing each day's menu and each days' schedule. Planning the quickest, easiest to prepare meals for the busiest days of the week is a smart strategy.
It is a good idea to involve the entire family in creating the week's meal plan. Get everyone's input and note everyone's favorite foods. Of course, that does not mean eating pizza every night or having ice cream for dinner. It is still important to eat healthy meals, and involving your spouse and children in healthy meal planning is a great way to pique their interest in healthy eating at an early age.
It is also a good idea to get the entire family involved in the preparation of the meals. Even children too young to cook can help out by setting out the dishes, chopping vegetables, clearing the table and washing the dishes.
Cooking large quantities of healthy food is a great way to save time. Cooking large amounts of stews, soups, pasta, chili and casseroles can be a huge time saver. Making double and even triple batches of these staple foods, and freezing the leftovers for later use, is a great way to save both time and money.
When freezing leftovers, however, it is important to label the containers carefully, using freezer tape and a permanent marker. Try to keep the oldest foods near the top to avoid having to throw away expired items.
Stocking up on meats when they are on sale is another great way to use that valuable freezer space. Stocking up on such easily frozen foods as chicken, turkey, ground beef, steaks, roasts and chops is a great way to make your food dollar stretch as far as possible while still allowing you and your family to enjoy healthy, delicious meals every day.
Keeping a well stocked pantry is as important as keeping a well stocked freezer. Stocking the pantry with a good supply of staple items like canned vegetables, canned fruits, soup stocks and the like will make healthy meal preparation much faster and easier.
Stocking the pantry can save you money as well as time. Grocery stores are always running sales, and these sales are a great time to stock up. Buying several cases of canned vegetables when they are on sale, for instance can save lots of money and provide the basic ingredients for many nutritious, easy to prepare meals.
Examples of great staples to stock up on include whole grain cereals, pastas, tomato sauce, baked beans, canned salmon, tuna and whole grain breads. It is easy to combine these staples into many great meals on a moment's notice.
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