Planning ahead makes it mentally easier to prepare a meal without having to think of what to make. Trips to the grocery store are fewer, faster and easier.
Here are 18 of our the best tips:
#1- Plan meals around complex carbohydrates and plant based items such as pasta, rice, baked potatoes, legumes and whole grain items.
#2- Make a “family weekly planner” to pinpoint busy days and plan easy meals for those days.
#3- Put a few safe and easy things on your menu like spaghetti, veggie sandwiches, veggie burgers and pizza.
#4- Make extra each night so you have lunch made for the next day.
#5- Make tomorrow easier by getting vegetables chopped, thawing out frozen meals or cooking rice.
#6- For people who like to shop more than they like to cook, a trip to a natural foods market can find more healthy boxed and frozen meals. Brands such as Health Valley, Eden, Muir Glen, Westbrae, Millina’s Finest, Fantastic Foods and Lundberg Foods are generally lower in fat and sodium than popular supermarket brands. Always read the label to be sure.
#7- People who don’t like to plan ahead on paper often do so in the store. Start in the produce aisle and take advantage of produce in season to make meals with a great variety, lower cost and more appeal.
#8- Pantry power means keeping your pantry stocked with pasta, rice, pasta sauce, condensed soups, canned fish, sauces for stirfry, a variety of canned beans, dried herbs, canned tomatoes, and tomato paste. Other items to keep which add flavor quickly include flavored oil sprays, flavored vinegars, broth and instant soup mixes. Keep your freezer stocked with frozen vegetables.
#9- Keep a list on the refrigerator where family members can record what they need or run out of;
this will ensure fewer trips to the store and more
time to cook.
#10- Encourage involvement from other family members, particularly children.
#11- A large pot of soup, stew or chile is good for snacks and in-between meals.
#12- Plan for healthy snacks and plan a healthy dessert for the week. This helps keep portion sizes realistic when you know you only have a certain amount for the week.
#13- Be flexible. Chicken Cacciatore can become a warm roasted chicken over salad on a busy day. Sunday’s meal can be switched with Tuesday’s if you are more in the mood for that one. Planning ahead gives you more flexibility.
#14- For highly organized and efficient individuals who like to plan a menu on paper, the number one tip is to write the grocery list in the order of store sections. Produce, canned items, meat, dairy, and miscellaneous grocery are the most common.
#15- Go to the grocery store during off-peak hours such as early morning or late evening.
#16- For some people, a three day profile is easier than planning a whole week. They don’t mind 2 trips to the store per week and can keep their produce fresher this way.
#17- Make one new thing per week so you increase your repertoire. Keep your favorite recipes organized and handy.
#18- Prepare at least one meal per week in a large batch and freeze ahead for another date.
Want more great ideas: consider one of our cooking or cooking demo books:
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. After a decade in food service for Hyatt Hotels, Judy launched Food and Health Communications to focus on flavor and health. She graduated with Summa Cum Laude distinction from Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Art, holds a master’s degree in Food Business from the Culinary Institute of America, 2 art certificates from UC Berkeley Extension, and runs a food photography studio where her love is creating fun recipes.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science and Dietary Guidelines to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.