While summertime is a great time to indulge in family fun, such activities may seem like a luxury that we cannot afford once the kids are back in school. Weeknights are hectic and leave precious little time to prepare meals or even eat together! However, there is an activity that saves time and money, improves your nutrition, reduces stress and involves the whole family: meal planning!
Meal planning 101
1. Involve your family
Sitting down for a few minutes on the weekend to plan your weekly menu has a positive impact on your quality of life considerably. Getting input from your children and spouse makes life easier for you and ensures that everyone is happy at dinnertime. It is a fun way to empower your children and familiarize them with the universe that is cooking.
2. Save time and money
Meal planning saves you time and money. Knowing exactly what you need makes you a much more efficient grocery shopper. In the kitchen, it reduces the time spent looking for the right ingredients.
3. Reduce Stress
Weekly meal planning reduces stress by removing the recurring daily pressure of having to come up with yet another nutritious meal idea that everyone will like, as if your life wasn’t busy and stressful enough already.
4. Add healthy options
Studies show that when you plan meals, you are more likely to serve foods that are nutritious and last-minute meals are more likely to involve fast food or other less nutritious options. Especially when school starts, parents are prone to throwing unhealthy last minute snacks into lunch bags. Why not plan ahead bring some of these delicious and unprocessed snack options to the table?
Yogurt – look for plain yogurt without added sugar and dress it up with fresh fruit or granola. Store in individual servings for easy to grab on the go snacking.
Whole wheat bread – top with cheese or peanut butter and thinly sliced apples for a healthy whole grain, fibre and protein boost.
Trail mix – make your own with raisons, dried apricots, prunes, unsalted peanuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, and a few chocolate chips for fun.
Kale chips – not chips, but kale chips offer a crunchy, salty, and healthy alternative.
Veggies & dip – carrots, peppers, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and green beans to dip in hummus on the go.
Fruit (even more fun frozen) – cut up melon, apples, grapes, and oranges and add a skewer or some dip. Frozen Bananas thickly sliced and dipped in a little chocolate or grapes also make a great au natural snack!
Cereal – Mini Wheats, Shreddies, Oat Squares and Cheerios are high in whole grains, low in sugar and no artificial colours. Mix with dried fruit or blueberries and watch the kids gobble it up.
Cheese cubes – try different cheeses and skewers with cherry tomatoes or apple chunks.
Homemade bars, muffins and cookies – it is possible to make healthy cookies full of whole grains, apricots, zucchini, muffins with oat bran or flax, or try apple cheddar bars. They freeze really well!
Here are some easy tricks and pointers to help you become a master meal planner:
- Get family members to give ideas and pick their favourite meals. It makes everyone happy and reduces meal repetition.
- Make a shopping list – and stick to it!
- Watch for sales in weekly flyers.
- Plan for leftovers: they save time and energy.
- Let seasonal fruits and vegetables inspire your meal planning. They’re healthy, ethical and save you money!
- Include healthy beverages in your plan. Poor beverage choices often get in the way of good eating habits.