Photo by Vegan Liftz

In my cookbook, Generations of Good Food, you will find many recipes that can be considered for meal planning or made to provide more than one meal.

Eat one and freeze the rest for another day. Today people live busy lives and don’t always have time to be in the kitchen at mealtime.  The demands of family schedules also may not mean the entire family is available to sit down together at one time for dinner.

One of the positives with meal planning is that you can limit how often you grocery shop.  A good choice is foods that can be used in several different dishes throughout a week.  For example:  Hamburger can be made into patties, a meatloaf, used in chili or pasta sauce. Potatoes can be mashed, fried, in a salad, or grated for hash browns. You can also opt for frozen or dried potatoes which can be doctored with milk, butter, and pepper to taste like homemade. There are lots of options.

Many people spend a few hours over the weekend cooking casseroles, chili, or vegetable dishes which are then frozen and warmed during the week.  They don’t cook during the week and just add a salad to complete the meal.  Pre-cooked rotisserie chicken can be wrapped in foil, frozen whole, halved, quartered, or cut into pieces.  When you are ready for hot fresh chicken throw it into the oven at 400 degrees for 35-60 minutes.  You can do the same with pre-pared ribs by cutting them in quarter or half racks. Freeze them and cook for 30-60 minutes at 350-400 degrees.  Putting a nutritious, hot meal on the table when time is limited is not difficult.

Meal planning does require some forethought.  First, what does your family like to eat?  How can you plan meals without them seeming monotonous? What ingredients do you need to buy for each meal? Finally, are fruits and vegetables included in the planning equation?  The nutritional value of food must be given some thought as well.  Frozen vegetables can be served in numerous ways.  Fruit is best served fresh.  The salt and sugar content in canned and frozen fruits does not make them the healthiest alternative.  Nutrition requires knowledge of the amount of protein, fat, and carbs in various food items.  If someone in the family has a health condition that also must be taken into consideration when planning meals.

Another meal planning trick is to make enough food at one meal for another meal.  Cooking additional pasta is an easy example.  Cooked pasta with sauce can be frozen for another meal or two.  Making a pot of homemade soup can account for several meals.  Freeze soup in freezer containers and thaw and heat when you want a quick nutritious dinner.  Make chicken pot pies ahead with store bought crust, rotisserie chicken, jar gravy and frozen vegetables.   Freeze them cooked or raw. 

Shopping when meal planning does take some training. But it is one way to limit the number of trips made to the store in a week. Buying salad in a sack is a great option but remember that the lettuce will not stay fresh. Cook brussels sprouts, spinach, or peppers ahead.  Store them in covered the fridge until you are ready to use them. Try to teach your family to eat vegetables and learn to prepare them in different ways. Keep things like celery and carrots cut for snacks.  Planning after-school snacks like yogurt, apples and cut up celery and carrots will also serve to hold appetites over for dinner.  They also provide nourishment for after school activities such as sports.

Planning meals ahead makes life easier for the entire family.  Because we do not always eat at the same time it is also a way to ensure everyone is eating a healthy dinner.  Meal planning also should include weekends when families are busiest. It is easier to opt for homemade alternatives to expensive fast food.  Food is expensive, so plan your meals accordingly and enjoy time with your family.

Pick up a copy of Generations of Good Food which has 200 recipes that make life easier and many that can be made ahead. It is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or most online book retailers.

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