By Linda DeWitt, MPH
What’s for Dinner? It’s the question of the hour! Too many of us look for answers in the grocery store at 5 p.m. on the way home from work. We’re hungry, our families are hungry, and we all just want to eat! All the while we rack our brains for an answer to the “what’s-for-dinner?” question.
May I suggest meal planning as an answer to your ”What’s for dinner?” question? Evidence shows that meal planning saves time, money, improves your family’s overall nutrition and result in stress free dinners that are sure to satisfy!
Hmmm, meal planning, you intend to, but then don’t. Perhaps it seems too daunting. Well, it doesn’t have to be. Below are a few easy steps you can follow to start experiencing the value meal planning can add to your life.
First, make a commitment to yourself to do it; you’ll only reap long term benefits if you are consistent. Second, decide what kind of plan fits your lifestyle best–a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meal plan. If you’ve never planned meals before, I suggest you start with a weekly menu. Next, decide the best day to write out your menu. Friday is my grocery shopping day so every Friday morning, I take time to write out my weekly menu and shopping list, and then I do my shopping in the afternoon.
Also, when you write your weekly menu look ahead to the following week to see what next week’s schedule looks like, and use that to determine what kind of meals you’d like to plan. For example, I work late on Wednesdays so I plan for an easy dinner and either my husband or daughter makes dinner that night. I also go to a weekly Bible study every Thursday so Thursday’s are YOYO night—meaning “You’re on Your Own”. Leftovers are great for lunch but can also be served as dinner a second night. Finally, check the circular ads to see what’s on sale that week so you can integrate those sale items into your weekly menu.
Once you have your weekly menu done, write your shopping list, making sure to check your refrigerator and pantry for items you already have. With your shopping list in hand, you’re off to the grocery store to buy all the items needed in just one trip.
Once you’re done with your shopping, post your weekly menu on the refrigerator. One last tip, be flexible; it’s ok to switch meals around if needed to accommodate something that comes up unexpectedly or if you decide you don’t feel like having what’s assigned for that evening, you can choose something else on the menu. The best part is you’ll know that you have all the needed items on hand.
Don’t be caught off guard the next time someone asks you “What’s for Dinner?” Be prepared. When you plan your meals, you’ll save time and money, and you and your family will enjoy healthy, stress free meals.