Baton Rouge, La. – Meal planning is a great way to provide healthy meals for your family, while saving money and time. It may sound complicated, but after you have done it once or twice it will become easy. Having a plan for meals, snacks, and beverages will help you balance out the food groups. Marianna Langston, SU Ag Center’s Assistant Area Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences in Union and Morehouse Parishes has provided the following steps to help make meal planning easier.
Inventory and organize your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator. Organize your pantry by grouping similar items together like canned vegetables, grains, canned fruits, etc. Check expiration dates on items and move items that will expire soon to the front. Inventory the refrigerator and freezer, making sure to check expiration dates.
Make a Meal Plan
Start with a plan for one week, this will make planning easier. Decide how many meals, snacks, and beverages will be needed for the week. Plan based on what you already have, what is in season, and on sale. Include foods from all five food groups on MyPlate. Be sure to vary protein choices, use a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. Choose a variety of meals that include budget-friendly meals and family favorites. Gather your recipes once you decide what you will be cooking. Make a list of ingredients needed for each recipe. Compare the items on the list with what you already have and mark them off the list.
Make a Grocery List
A grocery list will save you time and money. Having a grocery list will help get you in and out of the store faster and reduce the number of trips to the grocery store. Sticking to the list will help prevent impulse buys, which will save you money. Write down items on your grocery list as they get low. Keep the list in a place that is easily seen and keep a pen close, this will make it easier to add items.
Make leftovers into new meals. Think of the “leftover” as an ingredient in a different recipe. Be creative when planning new meals. Leftover meat could be used in quesadillas, casseroles or a stir fry. Rice can be used as a new side dish, in casseroles or desserts. Pasta can be turned into a pasta salad or casseroles. Vegetables can be used in casseroles, quesadillas, soup, or a new side dish.
Have Themed Nights
Theme meals are an easy way to make meals fun and add variety to family meals. Have family members come up with ideas for themed meals. This gives everyone an opportunity to be a part of the planning. Some ideas for themed meals include pasta night, burger night, throwback Thursday (make childhood favorite meals), stir fry night, kid’s choice, and soup and sandwich night.
Information for this article was gathered from the USDA’s Choose MyPlate MyWins Tips: Meal Planning Made Easy and Plan Your Weekly Meals materials.
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