We all know that cooking is much healthier than always eating out or getting take out, but it can be much easier with a busy schedule to do the latter. I have so many clients that struggle with planning, shopping, and cooking during the week, when the schedule is fast paced and limited. As their coach, I try to come up with practical solutions that can take the stress out with some simple solutions. You will find cooking is also more cost effective, so you will be saving money in the long run. Leftovers can make a great lunch the next day, or you can save extra for another night when time is limited. Cooking will always yield more food for future meals.
It’s best to plan meals and snacks for the week ahead on the weekends when there is some extra time available. Look at the calendar or your planner, and look at the week ahead. Jot down some meal ideas for each day, and then take some quick inventory to see what you already have and what is needed for the planned meals. Refer to any grocery store circulars to see if there are any sales on items needed or just for some food ideas based upon what is on sale. Once you have taken inventory, create a shopping list. Always shop from a list to stay focused on needs instead of impulse buying.
Choose simple, healthy recipes for meal planning. Always include a lean protein, vegetables, leafy greens, and a whole grain, like brown rice, quinoa, or whole grain pasta. You can leave out the carb’s if you are trying to lose weight, instead have a fruit for dessert. Try to do some cooking ahead like roasting a big batch of vegetables, and using them for multiple meals. Cooking soups, chili, or casseroles can be good for leftovers or to freeze for future meals, just label with the date. You can marinate, or season the night before for extra flavor then just cook when you get home, the entire flavor will have infused into the food. Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated, keep it simple and tasty with lots of seasonings, garlic, onions, citrus, etc.
Get the whole family involved with the process! Involve them in the planning, shopping, and cooking. Keep the shopping list in a visual place so everyone can contribute to meal ideas. Also flipping through cook books, magazines, or websites can give you new ideas. Try 1 new recipe per week if you feel like you’re in a meal rut. Some great websites for recipes include eatingwell.com, cookinglight.com, meatlessmonday.com, and as part of your nutopia tools subscription there are many recipes within the created meal plans. Also, you can also check out some food delivery services like Hello Fresh that send the recipe, instructions, and foods needed for a delicious, and healthy meal. Find the Hello Fresh link on my “Janet Recommends” section in the “About” tab. I have used this service personally for my family when I need some new meal ideas, and it has really helped on busy nights. As a home cook, it feels good knowing I am using fresh, quality ingredients that my family will love. What are some your top recipe sites?
Janet Brancato is a Registered Dietitian based out of Glen Rock, NJ. She works with clients online, over the phone, and face to face.