Apr 24, 2012

How I Plan Healthy Menus

I'm back in the land of the living; a land with internet and the comforts of modern life. We've been settling into the new house and enjoying life as homeowners. Trees were climbed, flowers were smelled and more prego pics were taken.

Even with the stress of moving, I tried to stick to my usual meal prep/menu schedule. I won't deny there may have been a cosco pizza run and a possible in-and-out stop, but apart from that we made food at home. I like to make sure my family eats well, and it all starts with a healthy menu. My first priority in planning a menu is to make it balanced and healthy. My second priority is cost.

It surprises a lot of people when I say that eating healthy can be affordable so long as a few simple rules are followed. The first rule is to plan a menu (yes, this can save money). The second rule is to shop smart. Here's how I do it:
  1. Think about your health goals. Do you want to see your family eating more fruits and vegetables? Or maybe trying more whole grains? Create a few goals for yourself and your family and then write them down. This will help determine what types of foods you buy at the grocery store (i.e. reaching for whole grain pasta instead of white).
  2. Take inventory (i.e. check out your pantry and fridge). I try to choose recipes that allow me to use up whatever is left from last weeks shopping trip. That way, there is less waste and more money saved.
  3. Select your recipes for the week. Typically, for me this means choosing about 5 dinner recipes, leaving the other 2 for our standard weekend fare: veggie pizza on Saturdays and soup and popcorn on Sundays. I try to serve fish 1-2 times per week, limit red meat to once per week, have at least one "meatless" meal and include poultry a couple times per week.
  4. Write it down. Once I've got the recipes selected, I write them down on my menu board. I used this idea to create a menu that I hang in my kitchen. It's just fun.
  5. Organize recipe favorites. I'm absolutely addicted to organizing my recipes on Pinterest. If you haven't tried it, seriously what are you waiting for? You'll find a ton of healthy recipe ideas that are absolutely delicious.
  6. Create a list of ingredients. Write down only what you need and put the list in your purse or wallet a.s.a.p. so you don't forget it. Can you tell I've done that a few times?
  7. Shop sales. I know - trust me - I'm a mom of a toddler and I certainly don't have time to drive around creation looking for the best deal on pot roast and green beans. But it doesn't have to be that bad. Just browse your local grocery store adds and go to the store that offers the majority of your ingredient list on sale. I usually shop between two grocery stores and save money that way. 
  8. Know your price points. If you want the best price, you've got to know the average price. This is particularly useful for higher priced items like meats, yogurt, fruits, vegetables, etc. 

There is so much more to say on this topic, but I think I should stop at 8 points. Seriously, that's enough!  

I'm interested to know what YOU have to say. What tricks do you use to plan a healthy, affordable menu?

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