What’s the worst part of lovingly spending an hour plus in the kitchen each night to put a high quality, freshly made meal on the table for your family?
Knowing that tomorrow they’ll be hungry all over again. And the next day. And the next. Keeping a family nourished takes time and effort, but with some planning and preparation, wholesome, home cooked meals can be much easier to come by. This year, make your time in the kitchen about quality instead of quantity.
The first step is menu planning.
A method that has worked well for me is to sit down with one of my favorite healthy cookbooks on a Saturday. My cookbooks of choice tend to be paleo, which is a good starting place for just about anyone.
Meals are based on vegetables and animal products and eliminate grains, dairy, legumes and processed fats and sugars. If any of those food choices are essential for you, they are very easy to add back in.
My best meal planning has come from choosing five dinners that sound good that week.
Even if I don’t plan on eating out at all, I’ve found that five seems to be the magic number. Six or seven ends up being too much food, and I never get to all of it, often leading to waste. Another magic number is to choose one or two slow-cooker recipes. More than that and everyone gets tired of super tender meat.
- Slow cooked pork shoulder, rice, salad
- Taco salad with leftover shredded pork
- Roast chicken, roasted broccoli, mashed sweet potatoes
- Chicken salad with leftover chicken and grapes and celery
- Pistachio crusted salmon and steamed green beans
In addition to dinners, add some easy breakfasts and snacks. Eggs, bacon and sausage, as well as smoothie ingredients, are some breakfast staples I like.
Planning meals to be large enough to allow for leftovers for lunch is an essential step.
After the menu is planned out, the next step is to create a shopping list of all of the ingredients. The best way is to organize the list according to your store’s layout. My favorite way to set up my list is by the three P’s: Protein, Produce and Pantry, which are typically grouped together in stores. Make sure to stick to your list. Extra purchases may cause you to derail your plan.
If menu and shopping list development seem overwhelming, there are some services available that can do the work for you. My favorite is RealPlans.com, a subscription-based service which creates amazingly tasty and fully customized meal plans with accompanying shopping lists.
My favorite day for shopping is Sunday. Try to get it done earlier in the day because grocery stores tend to get busy late on Sunday with all the last minute shoppers. Shopping early leaves you more time for food prep in the day.
After gathering up all of the ingredients at the store, it’s time to come home and assemble as much as possible before the busy week begins. Here are a few ideas for make-ahead steps:
- Roast vegetables
- Chop raw vegetables for salads, snacks and roasting
- Bake potatoes
- Cook rice
- Roast chicken
- Slow cooked pork or beef roast
- Simple meals like soup or meatballs
- Green salad
- Breakfasts like quiche, frittata, egg muffins
- Make condiments: mayo, ketchup or sauces
- Snacks such as hard-boiled eggs or jerky
- Other homemade options: yogurt, broth, ghee
After planning for the week, preparing for each meal is greatly simplified. Meats and vegetables only need to be reheated in the oven, on the stovetop with broth or in the microwave if you are not averse to it. Salads, vegetables, and protein can be easily assembled for meals, and then spiced up with sauces, seasonings, salsa, olives, nuts, seeds or olive oil.
Meal planning takes extra effort up front but saves time, energy, money and health in the long run.
Sara Kennedy is a certified Nutritional Therapy Consultant. She lives fitness, nutrition and wellness – and wants to help save lives and change the world’s view on health and nutrition. Learn more about Sara and her plans at thriveak.com To reach her, email firstname.lastname@example.org