Meal planning can be a challenge for anyone, but it’s especially tough for those with active families. Between juggling everyone’s schedules and attending extracurricular activities, sometimes it can be difficult to find time to squeeze in the preparation of a balanced meal! Eating healthy, home cooked meals is the best way to keep everyone full and focused during the week.
Here are some meal prepping and planning ideas to alleviate the stress of keeping your family healthy and happy with nutritious foods.
To get started, think of what you’ll need that week by:
Planning your menu: What have you not had in a while that you love to eat? What is on sale and seasonal at the grocery? Check with your family and see if they have any favorites that they have been craving. Create your weekly menu and then build your grocery list for those meals.
Taking inventory. Before you go to the store, see what you already have inside your fridge and pantry. You can plan out what you need to make your meals for the week based on these items. This might seem like an obvious step, but so many times people forget something at the store that they thought they had at home causing another trip to the store.
Schedule your meals. Plan meals for each day you’re going to cook at home. You can plan out your meals during downtime at the office, while the kids are napping, or even when you’re on the treadmill! If you only eat at home a few times a week, it’s okay to start small. If you frequently cook already, try to challenge yourself by adding a few extra meals into your plan.
Go grocery shopping. When making your list, divide the food into sections. Once you’re at the store, you can grab everything you need from one aisle without having to circle back around. If you’re shopping with your family, divide and conquer! Split up your list and you’ll be out of the store in no time. Many hands will make your shopping trip smoother.
Once you have all the items on your list, it’s time to put some meals together! Start by:
Preparing the ingredients. Any fresh vegetables can be washed and chopped properly before cooking. Be sure to use quality knives. Cheap knives can easily break and cause serious injuries. You can chop all of your fruits and vegetables at one time and store them in airtight containers. This makes cooking down the road much easier when you can grab and toss into whatever the dish is you are making.
Utilizing your fridge. In most cases, you’ll need to keep your ingredients and leftovers in the fridge. Most of what you make can also last in the freezer for many months after you’ve made it. Again, always use airtight storage containers to keep your food fresh. Freezer burn won’t make you sick, but it might ruin the food’s flavor.
Keeping sauces on hand. Making a big pot of sauce in advance is a great time saver since it can last for many meals. Sauces and rubs can keep for up to six months in the freezer. If you make your own seasoning, you can keep it in your pantry and have it ready on the fly!
This can be the most intimidating part. There are many ways you can simplify the process, like:
One-pot meals. Savory meals like chili and pot roast can be prepared in either a pressure cooker or a slow cooker. By preparing it all in one container, this means you won’t have to wash as many dishes. These meals also generally leave a lot of leftovers: one meal could end up lasting half the week!
Cook whenever you have the opportunity. If there’s an opening in your family’s schedule, use it. Try to cook all the meals you’ll need for the week in one afternoon. That way, even if you’re too busy to cook every night, you won’t have to worry about cooking. What a relief.
Keep your fridge organized. Giving each type of food its own section will save you a lot of time trying to locate ingredients. Any hot leftovers should be stored in microwave-safe containers for easy reheating. You can also store soups and salad in mason jars, which won’t take up as much fridge space. Make sure you write the date each dish was prepared somewhere on the container.
As long as you have a strategy in place, meal prepping doesn’t have to be a hassle. It will save you time in the kitchen which will provide you with more time for you and your family. For more tips on how to keep your family active and healthy, feel free to visit one of our athletic clubs today.
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