By Fredrica Syren:
It’s dinnertime, the kids are starved, and you draw a blank about what to make for dinner —so you just order a pizza. Have you ever been in this situation? Well, I have. And finally I realized that I had to generate a weekly meal plan or my family was going down a very bad health path, nutritionally speaking. It’s so easy to think we’re too busy to make dinner for our family and that it’s easier to make something processed or order take-out. Unfortunately, it’s not the healthier alternative. In the long run, eating take-out food or processed food is bad for your health, your wallet and the planet.
Meal planning has saved my sanity and lots of money; and I have found that, with just a little smart planning and food prep, weekday dinners are a breeze.
- Plan meals for a week—I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s super important to plan a dinner for each night for 7 days, and to stick with it. I also recommend planning simple meals that are healthy and easy, yet satisfying. This is when you will be digging through old recipes or finding new ones online that could be used in your plan. I have found that I develop a daily theme for my family, who eat plant based and vegan foods. It goes like this:
- Monday—lentils; Tuesday—pasta; Wednesday—beans; Thursday—quinoa; Friday—hot dogs (kid’s choice); Saturday—sushi; and Sunday—pizza. This way, I can recycle the menu every week and plan each day according to its theme☺ And I don’t stop at dinner: I also like to plan breakfast and lunch, just to make it easier for me.
- Shop—Once you have your menu figured out, write a shopping list and go shopping for everything you need for the entire week…once! By shopping only once, you will save a lot of time and money. This way you have a better chance of sticking to your plan.
- Prep dinner ahead of time—I like to wash and cut all my vegetables the evening before. This way, when we get home and the kids are hungry, all I have to do is cook the actual dinner, which usually takes only 10-15 minutes. Since we eat lots of beans, I cook large quantities of beans on the weekends and freeze portion sizes in old mason jars so I have cooked beans available for quick meals.
- Make leftovers—I used to hate leftovers until I got busy with kids. Now, leftovers can be transformed into all kinds of second dishes. I turn pasta sauces into soups, and chili and Mexican quinoa into veggie burgers. There are endless possibilities for leftovers to become something yummy for the next day. I also like to make extra portions of foods like lasagna, stews, etc., that can be reheated and eaten the next day.
- One-pot wonders—I’m a big fan of one-pot wonders because they’re easy, fast and—well—produce fewer dishes to clean. I have a crockpot, which is a lifesaver, really. I simply can throw in a few ingredients in the morning and, when we get home, a warm, delicious meal is waiting for us. I make soups, stews and dhal in it. I even use my crockpot for breakfast and to cook oatmeal, but it can also be used to make tofu scramble, even hash browns. There are many crockpot recipes online.
To find crockpot recipes, go here:
To learn more about meal planning: