Melissa’s Meal Planning Madness

Melissa loves her busy family and lifestyle, however when it comes to dinner time, Melissa has been feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated lately. Heading into the warmer weather, her family seems to get busier than ever. Her three children are signing up for their spring sport sessions which mean a jam-packed schedule of shuttling children to their practices and competitions. Somewhere in between work and after school activities, Melissa is also tasked with getting a healthy meal on the table - and something everyone will eat! She’s read about the countless benefits of having more homemade meals versus processed foods, she’s just not sure how to implement this on a day-to-day basis. The end result is more frozen pizzas and “meat and potatoes” than she would like to admit. After months of struggling, Melissa chose to visit her dietician to learn about meal planning hacks to help her survive the busy months ahead!

These tips go out to all the superhero ladies in Fernie who need a little extra motivation with mealtime planning!

Take Ten (minutes)
It’s true, meal planning does take time. However this initial investment of only ten minutes will save the stress and hassle of trying to decide last minute what to make for supper.  Here’s how to use your time most efficiently. Write out two different breakfasts and three different dinner options for the week on a piece of paper or note in your phone. Lunches will be solely leftovers and freezer meals, so we’ll put that thought aside until tip number two. Keep these choices simple, something like overnight oats for breakfast or a stir fry works great for dinner. Bonus points, choose recipes with similar ingredients like chilli one night and tacos another will help shrink your grocery list. Getting the family involved here can be a great idea so everyone knows what to expect, and there’s no fuss when dinner rolls around.

The Freezer is Your Friend
Frozen TV dinners were historically a staple in family homes for their convenience and simplicity. Unfortunately, they’re often heavily processed with a lot of ingredients you can’t pronounce. The answer? Stock your freezer with homemade freezer meals! Every Sunday, make a “one-pot meal,” great options include soups, chili and stews. They freeze great in individual portions for lunches during the week, and the “one pot” aspect of meal prep cuts back significantly on the dishes you’ll have to clean at the end. After a few weeks of portioning and freezing, you’ll be left with a variety of healthy freezer meals so you’re not stuck with the same option every day. As a bonus, if this is pulled out before school in the morning it can double as an ice pack in your children’s lunches.

Let Your Smartphone Do The Work
When it comes to meal planning, utilizing the technology we have at our fingertips can save us a lot of time and stress. One of my favourite apps to help with meal planning is “Any List” – a virtual grocery list you can share with your family. As you create your meal plan for the week, you can add in any ingredients you need onto the app. During the week, members invited to share the list have the ability to add ingredients, and cross them off after they’ve been picked up. You can also create a grocery list specific to each meal plan. This means if you use this same week’s meal plan in the future, you can refer back to the grocery list instead of creating a new one. Another favourite app of mine is “Cookspiration.” This is a dietitian-approved resource for healthy recipes to get you inspired to cook, based on your mood, what you’re doing and the time of the day. Don’t be afraid to use the Internet to search for healthy recipes as well, foodie blogs can be a great source for recipes. Be critical however, to look for recipes that have an abundance of veggies, more plant-based proteins and use lower fat cooking methods.

Melissa utilized her new set of tools to make it her goal to make a meal plan every Sunday for the next month. With the help of her family, she was confident this would alleviate her dinner-time stress and get her family back on track with healthy eating!