Meal planning is a great way to save money, keep your sanity and eat good food. But where do you start? Honestly, it depends a lot on how proficient a cook you are. Here are some ideas if you are new to cooking or just don’t feel like you’re very good at it yet.
- Make a list of foods you feel competent making and that you and your family enjoy. For now, make these the foods you eat most often. Depending on your lifestyle and how often you grocery shop, you can make a very specific plan for an entire week or make a general plan for a few days.
- Figure out what kinds of vegetables and fruits you would like to have with your main dish. Try something new. Allrecipes.com is a good website that lets you type in an ingredient and will give you lots of different recipes that you can try. Ideally fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit. Frozen veggies are less expensive and just as healthy as fresh.
- Remember that you can use leftovers from one meal to help make the next meal. A roast on Sunday can be shredded beef burritos or tacos on Monday. Leftover baked potatoes can be sliced and fried with onions, mushrooms and peppers.
- Try to cook something new at least once every other week. Maybe there is something at a restaurant you like to eat that you could make at home or something that your family has requested. Make this recipe on a night when you have plenty of time and won’t be too rushed. The first time you make something new, it will take a while. The more you make it, the faster and easier it is.
- Keep in mind that you don’t have to make everything from scratch. A store bought rotisserie chicken is typically the same price as an uncooked chicken and can save you hours. Using seasoning packets for things like meatloaf, chili and slow cooker recipes is also a handy short cut. (They can be high in sodium, so you may want to use only half the packet or look for those labeled “low sodium.”)
- Create a list of ingredients you need to make your meals so you don’t forget anything when you go to the grocery store. If food staples are on sale, you may want to buy extra.
- Lots of foods can be prepared and then frozen for later. You can make a big batch of spaghetti, grilled or baked chicken, soups, stews, chili and freeze in smaller containers that you can pop out and make a quick meal.
- Home cooked meals don’t need to be gourmet or perfectly healthy. Yes, you want to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, but don’t be too hard on yourself. Some nights you will just have a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, but it’s still healthier than ordering a pizza or getting burgers and fries.
For more information about health eating visit our Intermountain Weigh to Health program.