When life gets busy, dinner can become a stressful ordeal. We've all been there—6 o'clock rolls around and instead of placing the finishing touches on a delicious, homemade meal, we rush to the nearest restaurant to grab a last-minute (and often unhealthy) bite. If this sounds all too familiar, meal planning might just be your new favorite thing! From saving money to achieving a healthier lifestyle, meal planning offers a variety of benefits and can help you make the most of dinnertime with your family.
It's no secret that meal planning can be beneficial, but what exactly is it? Simply put, meal planning is designating the time to plan out meals in advance—grocery list and all. Start with a weekly schedule—just enough time for you to benefit from your planning, yet short enough that you have the freedom to adjust your plan.
When meal planning, consider all the factors that go into making dinner, especially your family's wants and needs. How much time do you have for dinner prep each day? Does your family have any unique dietary needs? Do you have a lifestyle goal that you'd like to try, such as going vegan or paleo?
With your goals in mind, list out what dinners you would like each night of the week. Remember: Be realistic with your planning. Choose nutritious meals, but make sure they are dishes your family will actually eat. Incorporating tried-and-true recipes with new, adventurous ones in your plan can help spice things up and avoid falling into a dinner rut.
When you've decided on your recipes, make a grocery list of necessary ingredients. This list should be your shopping guide; buy only what's on the list to limit impulse purchases. Fun fact: On average, people spend up to 40 percent more when they shop without a grocery list, making this step absolutely essential if saving money is your goal. Not only will your wallet thank you, but so will the environment. Buying just the necessities can help reduce food waste—like that forgotten lettuce that's been in the fridge drawer a few days too many.
The secret to becoming a meal planning pro is taking full advantage of your ingredients. Schedule recipes that have overlapping items, so you can buy in bulk without worrying about wasting unused portions. The key to mastering this meal planning trick is finding recipes that are unique enough to keep you from getting bored, despite their similar elements.
Ready to start meal planning but need a little extra help? Better Homes & Gardens has teamed up with eMeals to create meal plans featuring recipes hand-picked by our editors. Providing you with complete grocery lists and step-by-step recipe instructions, we'll take care of the planning process, leaving you with healthy, delicious meals your family will love.
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