Although meal planning can seem stressful and difficult to add to your already busy routine, if executed correctly it can actually save time and money, and bring you and your family together for more nutritious, home cooked meals. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Create An Archive: Start by writing down all the dishes you already love to make. Have your family pitch in ideas of what they love to eat, as well. This list can be used to create a weekly menu, as well as inspire you to make something you haven’t in a while. Anytime you try something new that is a hit with your family, add it to the list.
- Pick A Day: Choosing one day a week or specific times to menu plan, grocery shop, and even chop or prep some ingredients can make it a lot easier to create a meal when the time comes. For example, chopping salad veggies and storing them in an airtight container in the fridge will allow you to create multiple salads throughout the week with ease. You can also cook a large batch of grains like brown rice if you know you will be serving it multiple times over the next several days.
- Make A List: Having a shopping list when you go to the store saves time and money. It helps you avoid buying extra things you don’t need (don’t go shopping on an empty stomach, either!), it helps reduce food waste by allowing you to know how much of each ingredient you need, and it helps save time from not having to return to the store for forgotten items.
- Stock Up: Decide on a few easy staple snacks your family enjoys to always have on hand. This could be something like almonds, yogurt, and hummus with carrots all year round and seasonal fruit such as apples in the winter and berries in the summer. Keeping fruit on the counter draws the eye and makes it more likely to be grabbed first. Nutritious choices become simple and easy when hunger would otherwise get in the way.
- Re-Invent Leftovers: Cooking a little more at dinner can save you time and effort the next day for lunch. If the idea of eating the same thing twice in 24 hours does not appeal to you, you can get creative and serve leftovers in a creative way. Serve leftover chicken in corn tortillas with salsa, put a slice of meatloaf on toasted whole grain bread, add chilled roasted veggies or whole grains to your salad, or ladle leftover soup over a steamed sweet potato. If all else fails, you can freeze most leftovers to eat a couple weeks later when you are too busy to cook.
- Get The Family Involved: Family can help out at any and all steps along the way! Assign everyone a task they can handle for their age group. In addition to the family bonding and time saved, kids are more likely to eat healthful foods if they’ve been involved in its preparation. It can help them learn to cook nutritious meals for themselves as they grow.
Now that the dark rainy season is in full effect and playing outside may be less of an option, we wanted to bring you a few ideas for mixing fun and food with these indoor family activities. Round up the kids, a few ingredients, and get playing!
Cinnamon Sugar Snowflakes
Make these crunchy sweet snacks on a cold day with kids aged 3 and up .
- Flour tortillas (regular or gluten-free)
- Cinnamon sugar
- Melted butter or cooking spray
- Clean kid’s scissors
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Microwave the tortillas for a few seconds so they don’t break when you fold them. Fold in half, and fold in half again. Cut out shapes as you would a paper snowflake. Unfold.
- Spray with cooking spray or brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and bake for 5-10 minutes until golden, watching carefully so they don’t burn.
- Remove from oven, allow to cool, and enjoy!
Rainbow Fruit Skewers
- Wooden Skewers
- Washed and cut colorful fruit: strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, grapes (green and purple), blueberries
- Skewer one piece of fruit at a time onto a wooden skewer in your favorite color pattern.
This is a healthy and fun way to get kids of almost any age to eat their veggies! You can keep some dipping sauces at the table to encourage dunking and snacking along the way.
- Small tortillas (flour or corn)
- A variety of vegetables (carrot julienned and rounds, cucumber spears and rounds, bell pepper slices, cherry tomato halves, etc)
- A variety of cheese slices (shredded, triangles, and rounds work great) or cream cheese
- Place a tortilla on each plate for a head, and lay out the sliced veggies and cheese for creating facial features.
- Place the veggies on the tortilla in creative ways, making silly faces and munching along the way.
Making butter at home is a fun way to teach kids about where food comes from and how it’s made. It will keep a couple of days in the fridge, but it probably won’t last that long because it’s so delicious!
- Heavy whipping cream
- A jar with a tight fitting lid
- Pinch of salt
- Bread (or something to eat the butter with)
- Pour the heavy whipping cream into the jar, making sure it’s about half full. Add a pinch of salt
- Close the lid tightly and take turns shaking the jar. After about 5-10 minutes of shaking it will turn to whipped cream, and the noise of the liquid sloshing around will stop. Keep shaking! A chunk of butter will separate from the liquid soon after.
- Pour the buttermilk off (you can save it for baking), get the butter out of the jar and rinse under cold water to remove the rest of the buttermilk. Enjoy!
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