Does your family calendar look like a perplexing escape room puzzle? Do you feel the minutes ticking away each day as you race to feed your family between activities? If so, you’re not alone. With careful meal planning your family can stress less and eat healthier, all while avoiding the drive-thru or tapping your favorite takeout app. Meal planning seems daunting, but once you find your family favorites, the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
Here are five tips to get you eating healthier amidst the chaos:
CREATE LISTS. I’m old school and use pencil and paper to put together our weekly menu. When it’s my husband’s turn to meal plan, he uses a note taking app, but we link our grocery lists together using Cozi (cozi.com) before going into the grocery store or placing our grocery order online order for pickup. Not straying from what’s on the list saves money—and our food budget.
COOK ONCE. Prepare your protein or buy a rotisserie chicken early in the week. Steam cook your favorite vegetables and side dishes. Store everything in BPA-free containers like Bento Boxes (en.bentoandco.com) in individual serving sizes for quick and healthy weekday meals.
USE KITCHEN GADGETS. Let the gadgets do the work for you. I love using my crock pot. It’s easy to dump the ingredients into it in the morning, and my meal is ready to serve at dinner. I’ve also heard that Instant Pots (instantpot.com) are great for those who don’t plan their meals much before dinner hour.
DOUBLE UP. I love cooking in the morning since I don’t like cooking dinner when I’m tired and hungry. When doubling up, I like to make my tried and true casseroles. They’re easy to make and freeze well, so I cook once and freeze the other for another busy night. I don’t cook with salt, so my freezer meal is a healthier version of a Stouffer’s meal.
GRAB AND GO. Fill the fruit bowl, designate a drawer in the fridge with healthy snack options, and use clear over-the-door shoe organizers in the pantry to make grabbing snacks easy and fun.
Meal planning allows my family to eat healthier and save money by avoiding fast food. The average fast food meal is between $5 and $8 per person, but the cost of cooking at home averages out to less than $3 per person. Do the math for your family and you can see how meal prep with a busy family schedule saves you in the long run. On top of that, we eat more meals together and stay within our monthly food budget, too. I post our weekly dinner menu on the refrigerator so there are no surprises or questions about what’s for dinner. It’s a win-win. The kids know what we’re eating, and I’m not struggling to put well-balanced meals together at the last minute for my already hungry, busy, over-extended family.