This past week we have focused on making healthy choices when we're faced with eating out at fast food restaurants, whether or not eating breakfast makes a difference for the rest of the day, incorporating snacks into our everyday eating in a healthy manner, as well as those lovely things call desserts.
One of the things that you may see being mentioned over and over again is planning. How many times have you come home to a pantry and fridge half empty with mismatching ingredients and you are starving? I know I have on multiple occasions, which far too many times ends up in a call to the pizza place. Running out to the store every other day can be a huge burden on your time, so how do we fix solve this problem?
Pre-plan your weekly meals.
Wait. Stop. Before we go any farther... does this entail you planning out every single last meal for the week and they all have to be homemade? Heck no. Often your work schedule, or your kids' sports practice schedule, dictates which days of the week can have nice homemade sit-down meals, and which days are the ones you need to swing through the drive-thru. That's life. Those days happen.
How do you even go about pre-planning a menu for the week? Seems time consuming and intimidating. If you let it, it can be, but pre-planning your weekly menus definitely doesn't have to be either of those.
Step 1: Every once in a while I will go through some of my favorite recipe sites (Allrecipes and MyRecipes), things I have starred on my Google Reader, and items I have marked in magazines and check out what new things sound appealing. Sometimes this can even be a lot to wade through, so it helps to have a focus to narrow it down.
- What food are you in the mood for? Chinese? Italian? Mexican?
- Are you trying to cut back on sodium, saturated fat, or cholesterol?
- Are you trying to find low calorie options?
Most recipe websites have options or whole categories devoted for such searches and can help you narrow it down. Another trick I implement is to sort those narrowed searches by their ratings. I like to see the top rated dishes first, as this saves time trying to weed out those dishes that don't quite hit the mark - for anybody.
Every once in a while I have cravings for things we've already made, so I make a list of those things as well.
Step 2: Pick a day when you have a bit of time (maybe on the weekend), and pick those dishes from your "master list" that sound good to eat that week. Put it all together on a list - Monday: Hamburgers, Tuesday: Spaghetti, etc. so it matches up with the time you have available for that day. Check your pantry/fridge/freezer for ingredients you already have on hand, and make a grocery list for those items you don't have.
Step 3: Hit up the grocery store. Cross things off your list as you get them (no sense getting home and forgetting several things!).
Step 4: Enjoy your week of "stress-free" planned meals. No big 45 minute discussion about what to eat for dinner. No "falling off the bandwagon" because you were too hungry to make it to the store for groceries and then make dinner. Simply put -- dinner your way. And if you really don't feel like those tacos one night, you'll already have another meal waiting in the wings to make instead.
What does your weekly menu look like and what are some of your favorite places to find recipes?