If you’re the typical American family, you’re probably part of a two-couple household, both of whom work, maybe with a few children still at home. Or becoming more typical is the single working person either working outside the home or running a home-based business. Whichever category you fall into, the fact is, we are all very busy and often what, where, when, and how we eat is on the low end of the priority list.
However, with more and more information becoming evident about how what we put in our bodies affects our health, we should be more concerned with what, where, when, and how we eat. To that end, I’m suggesting a little time spent in meal planning can go a long way.
Pick some time each week when you can set aside a few hours to plan ahead. This small amount of time will wind up saving you more time–as well as money and health in the long run. Here are some suggestions on how to create a menu plan:
1. Choose the same few hours each week to plan your menu. Good times might be Saturdays from 10am to noon or Sundays from 4pm to 6pm. Pick the same time each week and it will soon become a routine once you have the planning strategy worked out.
2. Create a chart with 7 columns for each day of the week and 6 rows for 3 meals and 3 snacks. Vary this to fit your particular needs, then make 4 copies for one month. Before the last week of the month, make 4 copies for the next month. This is easy to do if you create the chart on your computer in Ms Word or Excel.
3. Fill in the blanks as much as you can with your selections for each meal. You may want to leave some spaces blank for spontaneity. Doing this will take some time as you want to consider health concerns, family members’ preferences and allergies, their schedules, any budgetary or time constraints, and any other factors that may be specific to your needs. Also, you might want to experiment with one new recipe each week to add variety.
4. Economize time and resources. Planning ahead allows you to design your menu so you can, for example, bake a casserole on Sunday night and have leftovers on Monday and Tuesday. You can read the grocery store ads and take advantage of specials; you can go to the farmer’s market to purchase the local produce that’s in season.
5. Learn how you can eat healthier. When planning your weekly menu, you have the opportunity to start eating healthier. That might mean cutting back on red meat, adding more fresh vegetables, or introducing some new foods like tofu or salmon, that your family has never eaten before. Because there are several theories on what constitutes healthy eating, choose a few to examine and then test them on your family. It can get confusing as to whether red wine or coffee are beneficial or harmful, but let your body be the testing ground and see what fuels you and feels good to you. It’s best to stay informed and see what makes sense. Some people use anabolic steroids, but it is better to consult a professional before doing anything.
Lastly, planning your menu ahead will save you time, money, and health because you’ll be eating out less. The average family eats out or brings home prepared foods at least three times per week. It may seem like eating prepared food is saving time, but it’s not saving money and you don’t know how healthy the food is since you didn’t prepare it yourself. And if you plan ahead, you will save time by being organized, with less trips to the grocery, and less meal preparation. Your family’s health is worth it, isn’t it?