Here at Spend Smart. Eat Smart. we talk about planning meals a lot. This is because it is easier to save money and make healthy food choices when you have a plan. I know that on the weeks that I do not have a plan, or on the weeks when my plan goes wrong, I end up making more trips to the store, spending more money, and making less healthy choices.
My colleagues have written many great blogs about meal planning here, here, here, and here. If you want more information about meal planning, take some time to read this helpful information. Today, I am going to tell you about how meal planning works for my family of five.
I do a lot of cooking on the weekend, so I usually plan out my meals and write my grocery list on Friday. First, I look at what I have on hand and think of what meals I can make to use up these foods before they go bad. Then, I write down all of the meals I am going to make that week. Our 5-Day Meal Planning Worksheet can be helpful for this step. Finally, I write my grocery list and go shopping.
Now it is time for a confession, I rarely stick to my meal plan as written. We are an active family and things come up, so I give myself a break here. If it is 5:30 on Monday night and everyone is hungry but I have not even started supper, I will pull out Sunday’s leftovers and re-heat them. This pushes Monday’s meal to another night, but that is ok. Just remember, if you have raw meat in your refrigerator, it is only good for 3-4 days, so stick it in the freezer if you will not be using it soon.
Meal planning is a great way to get your healthy new year’s resolutions off to the right start. So, give meal planning a try!
Last Monday I attended a lecture by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, who hosts the weekly radio program called The Splendid Table, on American Public Media and is the author of several award winning cookbooks. I have to admit that I am a bit intimidated by the ingredients, recipes, cooking and wine experts I hear when I listen to the radio program (it’s on Saturday from 2-3 pm and Sunday from 11 am – 12 pm on Iowa Public Radio).
After meeting Kasper, I am impressed with her down to earth advice and charmed by the easy, fun way she interacts with the audience. Her talk had ideas that we try to promote on our website, blog and Facebook page. She said:
- Meals can be simple. Kasper says she cooks every night. Her weeknight meals take 20-30 minutes to prepare and usually only have about 5 ingredients.
- Get everyone involved in meals. Meals are about the people, not just the food.
- On weekends, Kasper says to try something you have never tried. Give yourself permission to have an adventure and let yourself enjoy cooking. Enjoy the process and forget about the results.
In a recent blog from The Splendid Table, Kasper gives her top 5 characteristics of good cooks. Here they are:
- Good cooks don’t waste anything.
- Good cooks clean as they go.
- Good cooks read a recipe from beginning to end before they begin.
- Good cooks taste as they go.
- Good cooks use their hands.
If you have children at home, having regular meals together is one way you can improve their health and academic performance. Iowa State University staff review the research behind the benefits of family meals and tips for putting family meals into practice in a blog called Family Meal Time and a publication called Say “Yes” to Family Meals.
Even if you are single or have no children at home, I think eating with someone has benefits. When I share a meal with friends or family it usually has food from most, if not all, the food groups. Plus, I think I eat smaller portions. Sometimes when I eat alone I choose popcorn and a diet soda. When I eat alone I do not have the opportunity to discuss what is happening in the community around me. Instead the TV is on or I am reading the paper while eating.
Family meals or a meal with another is something to consider for your New Year’s Resolution. To give it a better chance to becoming a habit, develop your idea into a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
I love to talk about family mealtime – it reminds me of happy memories of my childhood and all the conversations we shared around meals! I didn’t realize then how important our time together was, nor how much money we saved by eating at home. It’s true, though, families can save money by eating at home. When you eat out or use processed foods, you buy labor as well as the food.
So, how do you save money by eating together at home? Spend Smart Eat Smart website has lots of great ideas for saving money as you prepare meals. Prepare double or triple batches of favorite recipes to have on hand when you are in a hurry. Save money when you buy ingredients in quantity to make several batches. Make a list of foods that cook quickly and save time, such as scrambled eggs, fruit and toast; stir fry meat and veggies.
Keep meals simple and easy – a family meal together doesn’t have to be elaborate or include expensive ingredients. A simple meal, eaten with others while sharing conversation, is worth more than the most elaborately prepared dish. What I remember is how good it felt to gather around the table and share. Don’t let this simple concept become lost in the busy-ness of everyday life.
We’d love to hear from you about ways you’ve found to carve out time for meals with your family and saved money at the same time!
-contributed by Patty Steiner