It’s 5 o’clock on a busy Monday evening, and the kids are running circles around you asking, “What’s for dinner?” Sound familiar? Do you know the answer? You have chicken in the freezer but no time to thaw it out. Do you grab the phone and order pizza?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you weren’t stressed out at dinnertime? Wouldn’t it be nice if you had everything on hand so you could quickly put a healthy meal together? Let the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service help by offering some simple strategies.
First of all, you must have a plan. You plan your wardrobe, you plan your vacation, you plan what you are going to plant in the garden, etc. Shouldn’t you also plan your meals for the week? Allocate a few minutes each week to put on paper what you want to have to eat. Not only will this make life easier, it will also help you save money and assure that you have healthy foods on hand to prepare.
Start by making a list of family favorites. What main dishes does your family enjoy? What side dishes? When creating a weekly menu, use the list to fill in each day’s meals. Get your family involved in the planning. Ask them what they like and use this as a teaching moment as to what is healthy and what should be an occasional treat.
Be creative. Designate theme nights. Wednesday could be soup and sandwich night. Friday could be international night when you have lasagna or tacos or stir-fry. This is helpful when you get stuck coming up with an idea. Make sure the dishes are healthy and cooked in a healthy manner.
When creating your meal plan, think about the My Plate icon (www.choosemyplate.gov). One-half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, one-fourth grains and one-fourth protein. We usually think about the meat first. Try thinking about fruits and vegetables as the main attraction and the meat as the side dish. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, have fiber and are full of nutrients. Top off the meal with water or low-fat milk.
Once you create the weekly meal plan continue by making a shopping list. Check your pantry and refrigerator for the ingredients that you have and write down those you need. Take this list to the store and remember to follow it. Items that appear in your cart that are not on the list only increase the grocery bill. Following a shopping list helps keep the bill manageable at checkout.
You have now planned and shopped and are ready to prepare and eat. Cook extras and pack them for tomorrow’s lunch. Freeze anything that you will not eat within the next few days. Enjoy your family with a stress free meal.
For more information, call Debbie Stephenson at 910-893-7530.