As you might suspect, planning plays an important role in cooking healthy meals.
You need to choose recipes, make lists, buy the ingredients and more. Rather than tell you how to do all of these steps, we’re going to offer a nice list of planning tips. You can then take what feels right for your family and situation and apply them to your new routine.
Choosing Your Recipes
- Find Your Favorite Resources. There are many blogs, cookbooks, and recipe resources available. Find a few resources and bookmark them. These will become your go to recipe sources. You might want to bookmark some recipes to try each week.
- Keep it Simple. Great recipes don’t have to take hours to prepare. Sure Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon is amazing but it’s not practical for a weekday dinner because it takes several hours to prepare. Look for recipes that you can prepare in advance or that take less than 20 minutes to cook. We’re talking about one pot meals, crockpot meals and more. We’ll cover this concept in a bit more detail in the “Preparation” section.
- Add One New Recipe Each Week. After a few weeks of making lists and preparing your meals, you may get into a rut. When you do, your new healthy cooking habit may begin to feel less fun. To combat this, try adding at least one new recipe each week.
- Choose recipes that are well rounded. Look for recipes that have a good amount of protein, vegetables, and whole grains. These will provide you with better nutrition with less work.
- Choose Recipes for Meals and Snacks. Yes, there are three meals a day. There are also snacks. Snack time is the time when many people get too busy to eat healthy. If you include snacks into your healthy cooking plan then you’ll avoid this trap.
- Use the Store’s Flyer. Your local markets have weekly flyers. They showcase the items that are on sale each week. These sales often reflect seasonal produce. For example, in the fall apples will be on sale. In the springtime, citrus will be on sale and so on.
- You can choose some of your recipes based on what’s on sale and what’s seasonal. This can be a significant money saver when you’re looking at things like meat and dairy.
Organizing Your Recipes
There are many different ways to organize your recipes. There is the good old fashioned recipe box full of index cards. You can also print off your recipes and keep them in three ring binders. However, technology offers you a few options too.
- Create Your Own Private Recipe Blog. Blogs don’t have to be public. You can create a blog for your family recipes and make it private. You can then cut and paste your favorite recipes into new posts, categorize them, add links and pictures. You can customize the site however it works best for you.
- Use Pinterest for Storing Recipes. Did you know you can create private boards on Pinterest? If you enjoy that social networking site, you can create private boards with your favorite recipes.
- Leverage Recipe Software. There are recipe organization software systems that you can purchase. They also often come with mobile applications so you can access recipes whenever and wherever you are. Some software to consider include:
Make a List
From your selected recipes, you’ll want to make a shopping list. The list will ensure you have everything you need which, of course, makes it easier to follow through with your healthy cooking plans. It also makes it easier to save money, shop smartly, and save time.
- Cut and Paste. If you’re using online recipe resources like blogs, then making a list is quick and easy. Simply cut and paste the ingredients you need into a word processing document. You can then delete overlap. For example, if you have a recipe on Monday that needs carrots and you have a recipe on Thursday that needs carrots, well you don’t need to buy carrots twice. Just delete one of the list items and make sure that you buy enough for both recipes.
- Organize by Department. Your supermarket is organized by department so why not organize your list by department too? For example, group all of your produce together, your dairy and bulk items and so on. It makes your shopping much more efficient.
- Stick to Your List. One of the benefits of making a list is that it holds you accountable. You don’t have to think about what you’re buying, and not buying. It helps you avoid placing junk into your cart.
Shopping is part of the process of planning your meals and it makes good sense to plan your shopping too. After all, if you can make this part of your healthy cooking plan easy, then the rest may fall into place.
- Weekly or Biweekly? Sometimes it feels too overwhelming to buy an entire week’s worth of groceries in one trip. And to be fair, sometimes produce that you buy on Sunday doesn’t last until Saturday. You’ll have to decide if you shop for groceries weekly or twice a week.Keep in mind that some stores release their sale prices on Wednesdays and the sale prices overlap that day. Wednesdays are often a good day for sticking to your grocery budget. Also, you may find that shopping on the weekend works for you because you’re busy during the week and just don’t have time to shop. You may want to try a few different approaches to find what shopping schedule works best for you.
- Local Markets or Big Box Chains. There are different reasons to shop at different stores. When it comes to food and produce, you may find that you get better prices and better produce at your local market. And during the summertime you may enjoy your local farmer’s market. Of course big box grocery stores have their benefits too. You might find that you hit two or three different stores each week. And if it’s easier, you might consider having the supermarket deliver your groceries to you. They often do it for a very small fee, some around $5.
Okay, we’ve covered a myriad of tips for planning. So now that you have a refrigerator full of produce and a week’s worth of recipes what’s next?
Coming Up in Part Three: Preparation