The last few articles of this series focused on shopping and saving at the grocery store. Now that you know how you can save when shopping, we are going to explore how to plan your meals.
When you think of holidays, we usually first think of what food we are going to prepare or eat. Something that is so far away, yet we already have a plan. So, why don’t we do this for our daily meals? Do you ever come home from work and wonder what are you going to cook for supper? I know I find myself asking that question more than I should. It is also very frustrating to try to make a plan after a long day. Do you know what you are having for dinner tonight? About 70% of the adult US population does not decide until 4 pm or later. Planning ahead can save you time and money and can make meal preparation much easier. It also helps you to eat more healthy meals. You are in control, so let’s learn some techniques to help you plan.
It is always good to try to prepare some foods your family enjoys. If you are trying a new recipe, try to have some familiar foods with it. Of course, it is important to keep your budget in mind too. Your meal should have a variety of colors, textures, and flavors to make it more appealing. Cost is always a consideration when planning menus. Refer back to earlier articles on shopping sales and couponing. It is important to have a food budget and stick to it.
Time – think about the time you have available to prepare meals. If you are limited on time, you could prepare a crockpot meal, leftovers with a new spin, quick skillet meals or other meals you can prepare in minutes.
Snacks should be planned for and can help with food items that may be missing from a meal, such as fruit or milk.
Another way to save is to have a meatless meal. These meals cost less than meals that are planned around meat. In place of the meat, you can plan a meal with a whole grain and legume. Example may be Mexican Style Vegetables over Cornbread, cornbread and black-eyed peas, black beans and rice, or refried beans and tortillas.
Basic Menu Planning
- Strive for Balance – balance flavors and higher-fat foods with lower-fat foods.
- Emphasize Variety – include a wide variety of foods each day. Vary main courses, include different forms of food and prepared them in a variety of ways. Feature foods of various colors, textures, temperatures, shapes and sizes.
- Add Contrast – use a combination of different sizes and shapes of food. Avoid having too many of the same type of food in the same meal.
- Think about Color – colorful meals are more appealing. Fruits and vegetables add natural color to side dishes. Use colorful foods in combinations with those of little or no color. Remember to use spices.
- Consider Eye Appeal – think of the total meal presentation. Plan the way you place menu items. Make sure what you serve looks good as well as tastes good.
Lower your Meal-Prep Stress
- Get organized with a list of family favorite meals and snacks.
- Stock up on frequently used non-perishables.
- Weekly meal plan.
- Streamline shopping.
- Work smart – think like a chef.
- Capitalize on convenience.
- Cook once, eat twice.
- Be flexible.
For more information on meal planning sign up for a free nutrition classes offered through UGA Extension in your area. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program provides a series of free nutrition sessions in Spanish or English. Contact your local office for more information. In Chatham County, Carmen Martinez firstname.lastname@example.org or 912.652.7994. For Appling, Wayne, Tattnall, Toombs, Jeff Davis and Bacon counties contact Fani Orellana email@example.com 912.367.8130. Also for information on Creating Top-Notch Menus http://spock.fcs.uga.edu/ext/pubs/fdns/efnep/FDNS-NE-207a.pdf or Making the Most of Your Food Dollars http://spock.fcs.uga.edu/ext/pubs/fdns/efnep/FDNS-NE-501a.pdf. Proper planning means $aving on your food budget.