man checking list while grocery shopping

Meal planning and lists save time and money!

Meal Planning

Even under the best of circumstances routine is important for children and adults. Regular mealtimes and balanced meals are important now more than ever. Opportunities for physical activity may also be limited, but it is also very important now. Trips to the store are limited and money may be tight. We have some ideas to share.

Meal Planning and a list are the best ideas ever.

Being organized ahead of time will help take away the stress of putting healthy meals on the table at regular times. Here is a sample of what I do. I need to keep it simple. I find it easiest to begin planning all the breakfasts. For some reason most people will happily eat the same breakfast at least a few times a week.Then I plan the dinners. What proteins, vegetables, fruits, dairy and grains do I want to eat this week? I shop once a week, so I plan for one week. How many dinners can I plan that can be recycled to make lunch? How versatile are the dinner ingredients ? Will I have extra to make lunches? Buy foods you can use for more than one meal. Some people say leftovers, I say mix and match.

Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snack On Hand I need

*Have your whole household help in planning. Keep a meal plan form on the fridge with a pencil attached by a string. People can walk by and add an idea and ask the younger kids for their ideas too.

*If snickers bars appear as an idea for breakfast, you know what to do!

Instead of leaving snacks to spur of the moment junk foods, plan healthy snacks ahead and save the few snickers bars for treats. Junk foods cost money and offer no nutrition. Now is a good time to start thinking about nutrition as part of what you get for your money when you shop.

*Plan ahead the day you will shop, what days you will cook and what days you have leftovers.

*Know what you have in the freezer, cupboards, and fridge.

*Stock you pantry, fridge, and freezer with foods that you can use in a lot of ways.

  • Eggs for omelets, scrambles, poached and fried, baking, casseroles,
  • Canned or dry beans for dips, baked beans, refried beans, rice and beans, soups, casseroles
  • Flour for bread, pancakes, muffins, cookies, cakes, pizza dough, pie or quiche crust
  • Grains like rice, quinoa, and barley and buckwheat, farro for a base in main dishes and salads (like pasta), soups, stir fry, side dishes, casseroles
  • Oats for breakfast, cookies, granola, pancakes
  • Pasta base for main dishes and salads, side dishes, casseroles.
  • Canned and jarred tomato products for side dishes, soups, stews, sauces, casseroles
  • Sugar used in small amounts for baking, pancakes
  • Lentils and dried peas for soups, salads, stews, side dishes
  • Sweet and white potatoes for pancakes, soups, stews, salads, side dishes
  • Winter squashes for side dishes, pies, as the base for a meal with a grain
  • Whole grain bread, rolls, crackers and tortillas for french toast, bread pudding, stuffing, sandwiches, grilled sandwiches, croutons, toast, homemade chips, snacks
  • Peanut butter for sandwiches, off the spoon, in oatmeal, cookies
  • Jelly and jam for sandwiches, pancakes, cookies, snacks with crackers
  • Raisins for snacks, baking, oatmeal
  • Frozen vegetables and fruits for side dishes, stir fry, soup, with eggs
  • Condensed and powdered milk to use in place of fresh milk in baking
  • You can freeze cheese and milk. Stock up if it is on sale

If you have not tried the health food store, now is a good time to try.

The health food store can be very expensive. But, if you buy from the bulk bins they can be a great deal. Buy your grains, beans, legumes, oats, nuts, spices, teas, flours. They have the best variety and they also know many ways to use all the ingredients if they are unfamiliar to you. It may be fun to try new ingredients that do not cost a lot. Most stores will also have a rewards card, store flyers, and sales. Go online to see what they sell or call ahead with questions about what they have or how to use new ingredients.

Family Meals Matter

Over the past 20 years, research has shown what parents have known for a long time: sharing a fun family meal is good for the spirit, brain, and health of all family members. Recent studies link regular family meals with the kinds of behaviors that parents want for their children: higher grade-point averages, resilience, and self-esteem. Additionally, family meals are linked to lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders, and depression. We see family dinner as prime time to strengthen family bonds, nourish ethical thinking and families are responding to this.

The Family Dinner Project from Harvard aims to bring families together to share their experiences and insights to help each other realize the benefits of family dinners. Together, they will figure out the resources needed – like tips for setting dinnertime goals, engaging everyone in meaningful conversation, and overcoming obstacles such as conflicting schedules – to improve the frequency and quality of their mealtime interaction.

The website is really worth checking out. There are ideas for conversation starters to use at dinner table, movie suggestions for the whole family and recipes.

Physical Activity

Physical activity is known to help deal with stress. Burn off that unused energy and all our emotions. Don't eat the snickers, go to YouTube!

YouTube is our friend. Everything we want is at our fingertips: belly dancing, Zumba, walking videos, stretching, yoga, yoga for kids, music to dance to, qigong, taichi, and so much more. Schedule in 10 minutes at a time. Make it something you think is fun!

Hoping this helps you to find some kind of normal to stay happy and healthy. If you have questions or comments please send them to the nutrition contact below.

Last updated October 7, 2020