By Rosa I Lopez, MS, RDN, LDN
Whether you love the idea or hate the idea, meal planning has been shown to be a tool for saving money and time while supporting a more healthful food intake. I have had weeks where I use a meal plan in the expected form where I plan meals and snacks and follow the plan as written. The reality is that while that does work and is a useful strategy, I find that using a meal plan in a more flexible way is much more to my likely. It is important to consider why you might benefit form meal planning as it relates to the goals for your household. If any of the listed statements apply to you and your household, it might be time to revisit the idea of meal planning.
- I can not think of what to fix for dinner
- I sometimes don’t cook because I don’t have all the ingredients I need.
- I run out of ideas and I am too busy to cook.
- I don’t have time to cook once I get home.
- It cost too much to eat healthy.
- I don’t know how to put a meal together.
- I can’t cook.
- I don’t know how to plan a menu or make a meal plan.
- I am too tired to think of what to make once I get home.
- I don’t have anything on hand to make something quick when I am in a rush.
While using a meal plan as a day by day and meal by meal guide is one way to use a meal plan, I enjoy having more flexibility. I find that having 3-4 ideas for lunches and dinners creates enough variety for my household. I use strategies such as batch cooking and freezing as well as making a list of items that serve as back up ideas to be helpful. Our household has been working on overall wellness which includes focusing on supporting a healthy stomach microbiome. This included the strategy of really upping our intake of non-processed high fiber foods such as beans and legumes. This involved me using the slow cooker once a week to cook a large pot of beans. Some of the cooked beans are frozen or made into spreads (think hummus). This strategy allows me to enjoy hummus today as my high fiber bean but maybe have a black bean sweet potato soup for lunch the next day rather than having to eat the same foods for a week. Chicken breast can cook in about 10 minutes when using a pressure cooker or InstaPot.
Stay tuned for more strategies for meal planning. Each meal planning post will be used to build on ideas presented.