Preparing meals and shopping for food can be much easier with a little planning ahead. Taking the time to plan ahead and shop smart can help you put healthy meals on the table for your family with less stress. Preparing easy, healthy meals for your family begins with having the right ingredients on hand and having a plan for using them.
Start out by planning a week’s worth of menus that will fit within your food budget. Keep your family’s schedule in mind when making your plan. You may want to check out the USDA’s MyPlate website for help with menu planning and advice on healthy eating. If possible, plan meals around the foods you already have in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.
You may want to check out grocery story sale ads to plan meals around foods that are on sale that week. Make a shopping list based on your menu plan and the layout of the grocery store. For example, list all produce items together. This will help save time when you get to the store so you will have more time to comparison shop.
Smart shopping begins before you ever enter the store. If you took the time to make a plan for a week’s worth of menus and made a shopping list based on the foods you need and the foods you already have on hand, you are well ahead of the game.
Before you head to the store, see what coupons you have that could be used to save money on the foods you need. You may want to take a calculator with you so you can ensure that your coupons are really worth using. You may find that you can purchase a store brand or a brand that is on sale at a lower cost than the name brand product even with a coupon.
It is best to schedule shopping when you are not rushed and are not hungry. If possible, go alone to the store.
Before cooking, be sure to read through the entire recipe first. Make sure you have all of the ingredients on hand and the proper equipment. Check the timing and cooking temperatures so you know when to start each recipe that will make up the meal.
Wash your hands with warm, soapy water, and dry them. Follow the recipe carefully and note any special preparation needed for the ingredients such as chopped or drained. It is important to measure ingredients properly for the best results.
On days when you have more time, you may want to double a recipe and freeze half. When you have a busy evening, you can thaw it and pop it in the microwave or on the stove to heat up.
Children enjoy helping in the kitchen and are often more willing to try foods they help prepare. You can involve your children in all different aspects of cooking from reading the recipe, to measuring, cutting, stirring, and setting the table. Assign children kitchen tasks that are appropriate for each child’s age. Here are a few ideas: