In my household, Sunday night is for planning. As I look over the family calendar, I need to ensure that everyone will make it through the next week dressed and fed. Getting all that laundry done and meals prepped can be challenging, so I take time during the weekend to prep for the week ahead. It may seem time-consuming, but meal planning can save you time and money while reducing food waste. Here’s how to get started.
Make a MyPlate Meal
MyPlate serves as a blueprint for healthy meals, ensuring that we get all the food groups we need, including fat-free or low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. To make my shopping list, I chose eight foods that help cover these foods groups:
- Greek Yogurt: A nutrient powerhouse giving you all the benefits of dairy foods and a good amount of high-quality protein. Greek yogurt can be used beyond a cup – it’s also great in dips, dressings and smoothies.
- Cheese: Great taste and great nutrition. Cheese is another source of high-quality protein. It’s also my secret weapon for incorporating new foods into my son’s diet. Cheese can help kids eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Chicken: Cooked chicken can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days before it goes bad, so either do your chicken dishes early in the week or make a second batch Wednesday night. Poaching, broiling or grilling are my go-to methods that still keep chicken flavorful.
- Salad Greens: To not lose of a lot of green, it’s important to keep those salad greens fresh. Vegetables make a great base for a meal packed with vital nutrients, including fiber to help keep you full.
- Tomatoes: For this menu, tomatoes just felt like the right fit. I’d encourage you to explore all different fruits and vegetables as you continue to plan in the future. Remember, these meals are being made to your preference, so start exploring and see what your family might enjoy. Not sure how to use something new? Find ways to get creative with fruits and vegetables in the kitchen.
- Avocado: Avocados add great flavor, texture and taste to many different dishes. They are also a heart-healthy fat. Timing is key when it comes to avocados. Here are a few hints to using them at their peak.
- Fresh Fruits: Melons, apples and oranges keep well for the week. Berries can be a bit trickier, as they are ideally prepped right ahead of time. See what works for you, but remember the power of the prep. Having something sliced and ready to go makes it more likely that you’ll actually enjoy it. Canned and frozen options are just as nutritious and often less expensive.
- Whole Grain Pita Bread: A flexible, delicious base for many meals. Choosing whole grains gives you more nutrition – more minerals, more vitamins and more fiber.
Plan Your Week
Add a cold glass of milk to each meal and you are well on your way to mastering MyPlate. Don’t feel like this list is too prescriptive; I want you to be empowered to cook out of your fridge. Adaptability is key when it comes to making healthy meals and using what we have on hand.