If you’ve ever had that 5:00 panic as you get home from work and wonder what in the world you’re going to feed your family for supper… you’re not alone. Most folks either enjoy meal planning or dread it, but for busy families it is a must. Planning your meals can save you time and money and help you serve healthier food. The neat thing is that there is more than one way to do it.
Here are some tips from Iowa State University Extension:
Check items you have in your refrigerator, freezer and cupboards that need to be used, and plan your menus using these items first.
Serve what they like. When you serve food your family likes, you avoid waste. Gather low-cost, nutritious recipes that your family likes and serve them regularly.
Consider your schedule. When creating your menus and shopping list, think about how much time you will have to prepare the meal on a particular day. If it’s a slow week, make meals ahead and freeze them. If it’s a busy week, use some of the meals you froze earlier or just keep it simple with foods that require little preparation.
Check newspaper ads. Look at local store ads to find sales. As you become familiar with the costs of regularly purchased items, you will be able to quickly identify good deals.
Balance your menus. Use MyPlate as a guide to include foods from all the groups: Vegetable, Fruit, Grain, Dairy and Protein. For more help in planning, tracking and analyzing your diet, check out USDA’s SuperTracker.
Get inspired. Sometimes you might need some inspiration or new recipes. You can find healthy low-cost recipes here. You might also trade dinner ideas with friends and co-workers or use ‘theme night’ meals like Taco Tuesday or Sandwich Saturday. Ethnic foods can open a whole new set of recipes… try Italian, Asian, Mexican, even Thai.
Involve your household. Kids can help choose menus, pick a new vegetable or fruit to try, set the table or even help with simple food prep.
Print a copy of the 5-day meal planning worksheet to get you started.
Hopefully you learned a helpful tip, or maybe you have one to share… feel free to comment.
Iowa State University Extension http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/page/meal-planning-basics
USDA MyPlate http://www.choosemyplate.gov
Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County
Reviewed by: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County