HOW TO PLAN YOUR DINNERS FOR THE WEEK

In Fairfield County, CT, like in most suburban communities, we’re working harder than ever. It seems that employers are putting heavier demands on their employees, and most families have both parents in full time jobs. With everyone working so hard, and managing the kids along the way, it can be difficult to find the time to prepare a healthy, home cooked dinner every night, let alone a healthy lunch for you and the kids. Fear not. Planning your meals ahead of time can help make the process much easier, and quicker.

Planning

Meal planning requires some discipline, however once you get into the groove it will eventually become second nature. The key is to set time aside each week. The first step is to determine how many meals you’ll need in a given week. Assess the family’s schedules to get an idea of who will be home to eat and around what time. Varying demands, such as working late, business travel, and kids activities will play a role so you’ll want to consider schedules in some detail to establish your specific needs.

On days when busy schedules simply don’t provide enough time to prepare dinner, these could be good nights to pickup a natural, freshly cooked prepared meal from a local store. For other busy nights, consider one-pot or other simple meals, and/or meals that can be prepared ahead of time. Sunday can be a good day to put together these types of dinners.

When it comes time to map out a meal plan for the week you’ll want a pen and paper. Start by determining how many meals you’ll need, taking into account leftovers and prepared meals as options. Identify the types of meal that will be required for each night. For example a very busy evening would be appropriate for a prepared meal or leftovers. Less busy nights would work for dinners that require more prep and cooking time. Next you’ll want to identify recipes. As you continue to identify new recipes you’ll eventually have a master list to easily pull from.

Now you need the ingredients. Create an ingredient list for all of the meals that you plan to cook that week and designate a specific time in your schedule to shop. Of course the right ingredients are key to feeding you family a healthy dinner or lunch. Always look for natural, real foods. This means steak, chicken and pork raised without antibiotics or growth hormones. Produce that is fresh and grown locally, and prepared foods, deli meats, and sandwiches that are made with all natural ingredients.

To help automate this process there are some very useful apps available. Menu Planner is a good example. It lets you import recipes from websites and then creates a directory of them for easy access. It then allows you to plan out the week and create ingredient and grocery lists.

Feeding your family fresh, natural, and home cooked foods is one of the best gifts that you can give to yourself and your loved ones. Once you discover how helpful it is to plan ahead there will be no reason to turn back.