If you’re running around at 4PM still trying to answer this question, perhaps we can help.
There’s a lot to consider when deciding what to fix for dinner: likes, dislikes, budget, what’s already in your cabinet or fridge, how to make it healthy … just to name a few. That’s where meal planning comes in handy, especially if you want to provide meals that include enough fruits and vegetables to meet your family’s daily recommendation.
Making a weekly menu and shopping list is the best way to plan for healthy meals that include fruits and vegetables. In addition, maintaining a well-stocked pantry will ensure you’re always prepared for just about any meal emergency!
These before, during, and after shopping tips will make meal planning easy and efficient, save money, and help you provide more nutritious meals.
Before Shopping …
Check the circular. Circulars with coupons and advertised products come along with your newspaper. If you don’t get a weekly paper, go to your supermarket’s website. Note (or print) the items you would like to include in your meals that week.
Choose recipes. Based on family favorites and the week’s specials, look up recipes in your cookbooks, or online and decide which day of the week to prepare each one. TIP Ask your family for ideas, too!
Make a list. Choosing your recipes in advance will allow you to make a list of all the ingredients needed to prepare your meals. Take your list to the store so nothing gets left out! DON’T FORGET List items you need for other meals and snacks as well.
Take advantage of unadvertised specials. Not all of the products on sale may be advertised. Look out for other specials.
Be aware of prices. Larger containers are not always cheaper! Check unit pricing; this is listed on the shelf under the items [e.g. “3c per ounce” or “50 c per 100 count”]. Also use unit pricing to compare the prices of different brands.
Be aware of brands. Higher price doesn’t always mean higher quality. Different brands of the same product are often of equal quality. Take a moment to compare!
Bring your kids Not only is this a great way for your kids to become more familiar with grocery shopping, but you can introduce them to the menu planning process at an early age.
Use fresh fruits and vegetables early in the week. Fresh produce tends to spoil faster so put it on your menu early in the week.
Use frozen and canned fruits and vegetables at the end of the week.
Prepare items ahead of time. Wash and chop vegetables for tomorrow night’s dinner then store in a closed container in your refrigerator.
- Make enough for two meals.
- Transform leftovers into something else. [Today’s roast beef can be tomorrow’s beef vegetable casserole.]
- Pack leftovers for lunch.
- Include a “smorgasbord” night to use up the odds and ends.