1. Plan your meals ahead of time. And I’m not talking about sitting down with a giant cook book and a calendar and filling in 21 gourmet meals plus snacks for the entire week. Personally that kind of detail throws me over the edge of sanity (not to be confused with the edge of glory—Lady Gaga). Simply, jot down a simple meal plan for dinners—that’s all I do. I promise, it saves you all kinds of time (thought time, shopping time and prep time). Because, from that simple meal plan, you will create your grocery list. Then, you will post the meal plan on the fridge for all to see—which, incidentally, also cuts down on kids asking, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” Oh…and FYI: One night a week we eat out and one night a week we have pizza. That makes only five meals a week I plan ahead of time. EASY!!
2. Make simple side-dishes. The easiest and healthiest thing you can do for your family is make a habit of serving fresh produce with every single meal and snack. Typical side dishes for us include fresh tossed salad, fresh fruit salad, a plate of freshly cut fruit and veggies (whatever I have on hand), and fruit smoothies. Every once in a while, I may steam some broccoli or asparagus. Sometimes I get really crazy and add some potatoes (baked, mashed or sweet). But I always make it a point to have fresh produce in my fridge. Whenever I serve a meal, some sort of fruit or veggie goes with it. If I’m out of produce, it’s time to go to the store.
3. Cook enough meat for two or three days at a time. We don’t eat meat daily, but when we do, we do for at least two days in a row. For example, on Sunday, I grilled a double batch of barbeque chicken so I could also use it for chicken-veggie wraps on Monday. When I roast whole chicken, I always roast two: one to eat the night of the roasting and the other to use the next night in a stir fry or a chicken salad. Then, I use the bones to make homemade soup stock for the third night (I double-portion this, too, and freeze half for next time—stretching the chicken to four total meals).
4. Use a crock pot. The crock pot is wonderous invention. You can throw endless combinations of meats and veggies into a crock pot and they almost always come out perfectly. For a year of ideas for these endless combinations, check out my friend Stephanie’s crock pot blog.
5. Use a bread maker. Also a wonderous invention. If you love bread but (a) don’t like all the crud that goes into store-bought bread (high-fructose corn syrup, refined flours, preservatives, hydrogenated oils) and (b) don’t have time to mix/knead/rise/knead/rise/bake, a bread maker is the way to go. I throw all my ingredients in there in the morning, set the timer, and bread is ready at dinnertime. It’s great for fresh warm cinnamon-raisin bread in the morning, too. Yum.
6. Make soup. Soup is an excellent way to work a ton of vegetables into your diet with little effort. And remember when I said I only plan dinners? That’s because I often eat homemade soup for lunch. I always make a double batch and enjoy it all week long.
7. Eat left-overs for lunch. Am I repeating myself? This doesn’t just work with soup, though. Make a little extra of any healthy dinner, and it tastes even better the next day. Except for fish. I refuse to eat fish the next day.
8. When making casseroles, make two and freeze one. You are already going to the trouble of assembling a casserole, might as well just double it, and have it for a future week when you are too busy to cook. My kids don’t love casseroles, so this is not a normal menu item for us, but we do love homemade lasagnas and stuffed pasta shells, which freeze beautifully.
9. Keep healthy breakfast foods on hand. I don’t stress about breakfasts– at all. Instead, I rotate through a few faithful options, depending on my mood and my schedule. Here are my healthy breakfast staples:
eggs (any way you like ‘em)
sprouted grain (Ezekiel) bread or homemade bread
peanut butter and almond butter
raw local honey
plain Greek yogurt
and (sometimes) homemade pancakes on the weekends.
I combine two or three of those items for a quick and healthy start to my day.
Eating healthy does not have to overwhelm you or throw you over any edges–sanity, glory or otherwise. With a little bit of planning, you can stock your fridge with delicious, healthy foods and whip them into simply nutritious meals in no time.
Q4U: Which one of these suggestions do you need to implement this week?