Friday, January 30, 2009

Plan Your Meals!

Benefits of Meal Planning:

• Healthy mind – no more last-minute stress of what to make
• Healthy meals – plan healthy meals and avoid last-minute unhealthy options
• Healthy bank account – keep your grocery budget down by not buying what you aren’t going to use

Healthy Mind

Frequently, I’ve heard complaints of the mental stress that comes on the drive home, rushing to figure out what to make for dinner. Then, just when they have it figured out, they get home to find an ingredient missing. Planning meals means you don’t have to worry anymore – just drive home, decompress from your day, and then start making dinner, never having worried about what to make.

Healthy Meals

Planning meals allows for healthier choices. Unfortunately, the easiest last-minute dinner choices are not typically healthy choices. Pizza, mac and cheese, hot dogs, pre-packaged meals, frozen dinners, and take-out are easy as can be … and they will work against your weight loss plans!

You don’t have to become a chef – many healthy meals are easy to make, too. It’s really about making small changes, choosing healthier options. And having a plan enables these choices, because you’re not pressed at the last minute. Steam, broil, or bake your foods – don’t fry. Use fresh ingredients. Choose lean meat. Drain off the fat. Opt for light dressing instead of regular. But most importantly, have a plan. Take the time to choose healthy meals for the week, then stick to that plan.

Healthy Bank Account

You’ve probably heard it said, “Never go to the grocery store hungry.” Well, I’ll add another rule, “Never go to the grocery store without a plan.” We’ve all been there – slimy, scary produce in the refrigerator, bought and never used. Or meat defrosted and then forgotten. Deli meat/cheese you never used up before it went bad. If you plan your meals, these kinds of events will happen less, guaranteed.

Maybe you already use a grocery list – good for you! That’s a great step to take. Just be sure what’s on the list is really what you’ll need – and then stick to it. Don’t purchase perishable items that aren’t part of the plan. And don’t purchase unhealthy snacks! This will help you toward a healthier body and a healthier account balance.

Another Benefit of Planning

Have you ever had a recipe call for just one tablespoon of tomato paste, just a bit of cream, a single stalk of celery, or just a portion of any fresh vegetable. What do you do with the rest of it? Some items can be frozen for future use, but not all. When you make your menu plan, you can plan multiple meals using that same ingredient so none goes to waste.

What if my Plans Change?

If you frequently have to change your plans, causing you to not have dinner at home, be sure to plan at least one meal per week that can drop off the menu without repercussions.

For example, I like to have a pasta meal planned at least one night per week. I think the easiest “droppable” meal is pasta; the unused dry pasta & jar/can of sauce will keep for another week just fine. The veggie for the night is typically salad, and I always keep salad ingredients on hand anyway, so nothing is wasted. What about the meat? Well, hopefully I’ll know the night before not to even take it out of the freezer. But just in case, I’ll be sure that there’s another meal on the menu that uses the same meat.

Need Ideas?

There’s many websites dedicated to helping you find new recipes. My own site,, has a category for “easily removed from the menu” and for “healthy” recipes. Feel free to add your own recipes to the site, too!

If you have meal-planning advice to share, just leave a comment so others may benefit from your experience.

No comments: