Recently, I had the opportunity to conduct a “Healthy Cooking 101” discussion and cooking demonstration for a local mother’s group. Mothers with children of all ages (as young as two weeks!) and families of all sizes (as many as five kids!) attended the fun and casual gathering.
As a new mother myself, I have a newfound respect for busy moms who want to feed their families delicious, yet healthy foods on a daily basis.
In addition to giving healthy cooking advice, they asked for weekly meal planning tips. The two certainly go hand in hand so today I am sharing my meal planning suggestions and cost savings strategies to help promote a long term, healthy (and delicious!) lifestyle.
Schedule Meal Planning: Set aside 30 minutes once a week to work on meal planning. For us, this typically takes place on Sunday morning. Is Wednesday evening better for your schedule? No problem. Whenever you do it, schedule the time and stick to it every week. Eventually, it will become habitual.
Don’t Forget Breakfast, Lunch and Snacks: In addition to planning our dinner ideas for the week, think about what you’d like to serve for breakfast or what you’d like to take to work for lunch. Do you always find yourself scrambling for a sweet treat at 3Pm? Make homemade granola bars or a healthy muffin recipe instead. By taking the time to plan these meals, you won’t be tempted to make a last minute vending machine purchase. ($$ = Saved!)
Multiple Recipes for the Same Ingredient: How many times have you had leftover ingredients only to end up throwing them away weeks later when you find them in the back of the fridge?? Oh.. so just me? Awesome. As a family of 2 1/2 we often have leftover veggies such as butternut squash. (Have you seen how many cubes on squash provides??) Instead of wasting the leftovers, we save them for the end of the week to use in Chickpea Curry, one of my favorite slow cooker recipes from Thrifty Veggie Mama. Have cauliflower? Throw that in, too. Recipes are often a guide, not a rule book. Feel free to get creative and substitute accordingly.
Eat Seasonally: When you eat food grown close to your home there is very little that you need to do to make it taste incredible. Don’t believe me? Compare a fresh picked apple from a local orchard to a waxy red delicious grown across the world. By eating seasonally, you are always paying less for these items which means you are saving money. Right now, Winter squash is in season and costs pennies per pound.
Favorite Recipes Using Fall Produce:
- Honey Chipotle Glazed Butternut Squash
- Slow Cooker Applesauce
- Roasted Acorn Squash Salad
- Apple Cider Roasted Chicken with Butternut Squash
- Apple Cinnamon Pumpkin Oatmeal
- Garlic Sesame Spaghetti Squash and Green Beans
- Raspberry Applesauce Smoothie
Cook Once, Eat Twice: Double a recipe and enjoy the leftovers for lunch or freeze for next month. Not only does this save money and avoid waste but it will save you calories by avoiding the temptation to go out to eat for lunch. Here are several recipes that double up well and taste even better the next day:
- Sausage and Eggplant Baked Pasta
- Sweet and Smoky Turkey Chili
- Creamy Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower
- Vegetable Beef and Barley Soup
It was so much fun chatting with fellow moms who are equally passionate about healthy food. I would love to hear from all of YOU. What are your favorite tips and tricks for weekly meal planning?
Your fork is waiting.