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  • Kellie Blake RDN, LD

Plan Those Meals

We've been working on building a healthy foundation by drinking more water and eating more fruits and vegetables. Now we need to focus on meal planning! How much easier would like be if you had a personal chef to plan and make all your meals and snacks? What a blessing that would be. Unfortunately, for most of us, that's not possible, so we have to modify! YOU can become your own personal chef and meal planner with minimal effort! Planning is important for just about every aspect of our lives. We plan so we can make it to work on time, we plan vacations, outings, family events, kids schedules. Why not plan your meals too? Food is so important to how we feel every day and our overall health, why leave it up to chance?

Meal planning:

1. Saves time

2. Saves money

3. Improves food choices

4. Improves overall health

5. Puts you in control of what goes into your food

6. Helps you set a healthy example for your family and friends

If you’ve never planned a meal or menu, where do you start?

1. Do not make menu planning complicated

2. Start out by planning your dinner meals for an entire week

3. As you get the hang of it, add in breakfast, lunch and snacks

4. Need meal ideas: Pick your favorites, get your family involved, look through magazines or recipe books

5. Once you’ve got a few menus planned, reuse them or share with friends that plan menus as well

6. If you know you’re having a busy evening, make double the amount of food, so you can just reheat for dinner the next day

For my meal planning, I use the plate method: ¼ of my plate has starch, ¼ has lean protein, ½ has fruits and vegetables. This plan is naturally carbohydrate and calorie controlled, and I know I’m getting lots of nutrients and fiber!

So, you've made your weekly menu, now what? Grocery shopping can make or break your healthy eating plan! I would say that going to the grocery store is one of my least favorite things to's crowded, it takes time, I have to spend money while I'm there, and it's cold. I want to spend as little time there as possible! But, let's face it, it's necessary, especially if you want to improve the quality of your meals and snacks. In the long run, a weekly grocery trip will:

1. Save money

2. Save time

3. Improve the quality of your daily food choices

4. Reduce stress associated with meal/snack time

5. Teach your children about food budgeting and healthier food choices

6. Help you work on patience (LOL)

Making a weekly menu is awesome, but if you don’t have the ingredients you need to make your meals/snacks, it’s really pointless. Once you’ve made your menu there a few things you can do to save time and money at the grocery store.

1. Make a list of the foods or ingredients you need to make all your meals for the week and stick to this list! (this will prevent those daily trips to the store to pick something up for dinner)

2. Separate your list into the categories/sections at the store. For example, I have a fruits/vegetables section, canned food section, bread section, meat section, etc on my list so, I can just make one pass through the store instead of having to backtrack to pick things up here and there.

3. Stay on the outer aisles of the grocery store for the most part. Try to avoid going into the aisles that have tempting candy, cakes, cookies, etc…

4. Use coupons and look for deals while at the store.

5. If you have foods you use often, buy in bulk (if you have the storage space) so you can save money and make future menus with ingredients you will already have on hand. You can buy produce that’s on sale while it’s in season and freeze it for use later in the year. For example, I like frozen strawberries in my smoothies, the bagged frozen strawberries are $13.99 a bag, but Kroger had 3 pints for $5, so I bought 3 pints, washed them and cut the stems and put them in the freezer! BOOM, I saved money and it didn’t take much time. Kroger also had the different colored peppers (red, orange, yellow) on sale, so I bought several, washed them, cut them up and froze them for later in the year when they are much more expensive.

6. Have a food budget and take your calculator to the store. Get your kids involved by having them add up each item to keep track of cost.

If you plan well and have the freezer space, you may only need to do grocery shopping once or twice a month. You can then just make a weekly grocery visit to pick up perishable items or items you may run out of. These days, there are also options to have the store shop and bag all your items for you for a small fee. All you have to do is pick up. If you have a tendency to grab last minute junk food, this may be a good option for you because the temptation is gone.

Remember, planning is the key! Make a plan, stick with the plan, continue the plan!

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