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Meal Planning

March 10, 2023

Our National Nutrition Month newsletter series is focused on raising awareness and promoting nutritional health. The series will consist of four articles, which will be released once a week throughout the month of March. Each article will cover different aspects of good nutrition and diet, offering helpful tips and information to encourage readers to prioritize healthy eating habits and diet.

When it comes to preparing meals at home, planning is key. As nice as it would be to have a personal chef to whip up those weeknight dinners, that’s just not a reality for most of us. However, preparing meals for the entire week sounds daunting. So how can we create nutritious weekly meals without breaking the bank when we are short on time and energy?

The answer is meal planning. Although it may sound simple, meal planning is incredibly effective at helping you stay on track with your health and your budget. Chances are you are doing some form of meal planning already.

Some important factors to consider when you start meal planning are the frequency with which you grocery shop each month, your monthly food budget, and the foods you already have in your home.

Whether you shop weekly, biweekly, or monthly, you want to get into a regular shopping routine. This could mean planning to hit the grocery store every Sunday to prepare for the week, every first Saturday of the month, or anywhere in between. If you are trying to eat more fresh produce, consider shopping weekly to avoid spoiled produce.

Once you’ve nailed down grocery shopping days, consider what your grocery shopping budget will be. If it’s a monthly budget, be sure to divide the total by the amount of grocery shopping trips you plan for the month.

Always assess what you have in your cabinets and refrigerator/freezer before hitting the store to make use of items you already have on hand. This helps to prevent food waste, save money, and is a good tool for helping to determine what meals you will have that week.

The most difficult part of meal planning is figuring out what meals to make. If you are new to meal planning, consider making large-batch meals to eat for lunch or dinner the following day. This makes planning easier and eliminates extra time in the kitchen. Some common batch-cooking meals include soups and crockpot meals.

If you are looking to incorporate more fruits and veggies but worry about cost and storage, consider purchasing frozen. Frozen produce is picked at the peak of ripeness and is equally nutritious as fresh. Be sure to choose frozen produce that doesn’t contain added sauces or sugars. For fresh produce, shop in season. Fruits and vegetables that are in season are often on sale and are more flavorful than those that aren’t.

Always prepare a grocery list to help keep you on track during your shopping trip and avoid missing ingredients or purchasing items you already have. Keeping a list can also help to prevent impulse purchases which will save you money in the long run.

Meal planning may seem daunting at first, but it’s well worth the effort. Once you get over the hump of doing something new, meal prepping will quickly become a part of your routine that you don’t even need to think about.