Look at your calendar. Think about school, work, and other events you have scheduled and include those in your plans.
What do you already have at home? Check your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer for food you already have on hand and write those on your meal plan worksheet.
Use grocery store ads. Check grocery store ads and write in sale items that pair with foods you already have on hand to make a meal.
Include all food groups. Review your meal plan to make sure you have a good variety of each food group throughout your meals and snacks. Explore MyPlate, www.myplate.gov, to learn more about what to include.
It’s okay to be flexible with this plan and make adjustments on the fly. Stock simple foods, like fruits and veggies you prepped over the weekend, to grab on those busier days. Include leftovers in your meal plan by making a double batch of a recipe and serve it again the next day or freeze to use later. Using freezer meals are great for busy days when you don’t have time to cook.
Sticking to your budget while eating healthy is possible! Planning is the first step. Menu planning helps you save time, save money, and make healthier choices.
You can personalize your menu by choosing nutrient-dense foods you enjoy. Nutrient-dense foods are high in vitamins and minerals without much saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium.
Start with these tips below:
Check what you have on hand. Check your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator for foods that will soon expire or need to be used up. Make a note of how to use those ingredients in your planner. This can save you money at the grocery store and decrease food waste.
Don’t throw that away! Plan for leftovers. For example, if you make a spinach salad on Monday, use the leftover spinach to make a smoothie for breakfast. Another idea is if you make grilled chicken for dinner, use the leftovers in chicken salad.
Use MyPlate. Healthy meals can be simple and tasty. Plan a meal that has something from at least three MyPlate food groups. This is an easy way to make sure your meals are healthy and nutrient-dense.
Think ahead to your family’s schedules. Do you need quick and easy meals? Are you hosting company? Do you need to harvest your garden? Using a five-day meal planning worksheet can help you plan a menu based on your weekly needs.
Working and homeschooling at home this fall? The structure of school and work can help limit our eating to designated meal times. When we’re all at home all day, though, we may graze on less-than-healthy choices. What to do?
Involve the whole family in planning meals and menus. Family members can suggest weekly menu items, including something new. The ISU Extension and Outreach Spend Smart. Eat Smart. (spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/) website has planning tips and a Five Day Meal Planning Worksheet (tinyurl.com/yyhaf3w2).
Get the family involved in preparation and cooking. They may be more inclined to help if the menu was their suggestion. Children will learn colors, shapes, reading, math, and science as they cook, without realizing they are “learning.”
Make snack bins in your fridge and on your kitchen table for both perishable and nonperishable snacks. – Nonrefrigerated Snacks: peanut butter; washed fresh fruit such as pears or bananas; individual bags of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, whole-grain crackers, or trail mix; individual applesauce or fruit cups; or Apple Cinnamon Bread (see featured recipe). – Refrigerated Snacks: low-fat yogurt; precut vegetables and fruits such as apples, carrots, and celery; or high-protein foods such as cottage cheese, cheese sticks, hummus, or hard-cooked eggs.
Keep sweet and salty snacks out of sight.
Everyone “starving” right before a meal? Set cut-up raw vegetables out while the meal is being prepared. Watch Veg Out! (vimeo.com/419742344) for more on vegetables.
Remember you don’t have to be perfect at this. Do your best as a family and have fun.