A meal plan is a tool to help you plan daily meals and snacks. Planning meals can help you make better food choices that provide a good balance of nutrients. Planning meals can also help you eat healthier by consciously choosing healthy meals to prepare; shop more efficiently by keeping you focused on the list of ingredients needed for meals; save money by eating more meals at home and increase the variety of foods in your diet by trying new recipes.
Simple Steps to Meal Planning
- Start slow. Aim to create meals for 3-5 days the first week.
- Include the family. Encourage family members to be a part of the process and contribute ideas so that everyone can take part in planning meals.
- List your meals. Mix it up by choosing favorite meals and staple meals along with new recipes that you would like to try.
- Make a grocery list. Check your pantry, refrigerator and freezer for items that you may already have on hand before going to the grocery store.
- Stick to your list. Plan for additional time in the store to compare items and prices. Be sure to look for ingredients that are lower in calories and prices that will give you the most bang for your buck.
- At home, display your menu for the week as reminder of upcoming meals and ingredients that can be marinated, chopped or sliced in advance.
- Make leftovers a part of your plan. When preparing a meal make extra and plan to use the leftovers in a meal later in the week.
- Remember to store food properly. Successful meal planning always includes proper refrigeration and freezing. Rotate stored items in the refrigerator based on date and keep the oldest food in the front. When freezing store food in airtight containers to help preserve quality.
- Don’t forget to plan for snacks. Purchase fruits and vegetables such as bananas, oranges, apples and carrots. When at home portion nuts, seeds, crackers and cheese ahead of time for easy “grab and go” snacks.