Moms constantly struggle with the challenges of balancing both work and home. One of their main concerns is providing their family with nutritious meals while battling the constraints of time. Here’s a suggested method of organizing your meal planning, ultimately saving costs and serving healthy home cooked meals for your family.
Plan a weekly menu
When tackling any type of situation, a little planning and organization goes a long way. A large majority of grocery stores offer weekly fliers notifying customers of their price savings, coupons, and specials. If you glance at a few in your area, it’s not uncommon to notice some similarities in their ads. Choose a flier that offers you the best deals for the type of foods your family enjoys. Then go through your cookbooks or search your browser for recipes that include the products that are on sale. Select a listing of different types of meals and even try experimenting with some new flavors. It’s also important to take into account what you already have in your home that you don’t want to waste. Plan your meals so that you use your perishables earlier in the week versus others with canned or frozen items for later on. Then look at your collected recipes and make out a grocery list of what you’ll need to buy.
Shop for items on your list
It’s not uncommon to walk your store aisles and have your memory jogged by an item you forgot to put on your list. However, grocery shopping is truly a test in self-control. Try to keep within the confines of what you’ve listed and don’t impulse shop. You don’t want to sabotage all the efforts you made when you focused on sale items. For additional items that were not on sale be careful of what you choose. Most of your higher-priced merchandise is usually at eye level, so take a look around. Store-brand items are often of the same quality but at a reduced cost and promotion items, such as $10/10 cans will sound good; however, it still costs more than the store-brand of $.80/each. Bulk items are a great buy if you’ll use them, but purchasing a big bag of potatoes doesn’t do you much good if you only are cooking potatoes once that week. More isn’t always the best choice.
Prepare your meals ahead of time
Preparing what you can in advance is the key ingredient to this endeavor. You can put your meals together over a weekend or all in one day. Expect your first time to be your longest; however, each time after, should be no more than a few hours. If you’re consistently taking longer, perhaps some of the meals you’re choosing are too extensive for work days and should be left to prepare on your days off.
Plan on having available, different plastic freezer bags or freezer-safe containers for storage. They both work well; however plastic bags have a tendency to take up less space in your freezer. Analyze your recipe. You can combine items in individual bags, such as meats and marinades, ingredients to a casserole, chopped vegetables, sauces, or dried ingredients. Keep the wet and dry ingredients separate because they have a tendency to get soggy. Any pasta or rice should be cooked prior to assembling and freezing. Then place all your individual bags into a larger bag for storage or cover and seal any casserole dishes. Label all your items to identify the meal, the date prepared, and if needed, the cooking instructions; then freeze.
Cook your meal for the day
Coordinate the day you plan to cook your meal with your needed defrost time. One of the easiest and safest methods of defrosting is to place your menu items in the refrigerator the night before or roughly about 24hrs. prior to preparing. This allows your food to defrost and remain at an appropriate temperature before you’re ready to use. For tap water method, place your bags in a pot filled with cold water and change the water every 30 minutes until your food is defrosted. This usually takes from 1-2 hrs. but needs more of your attention. Microwaves are the quickest method of defrosting; however, you must cook your food immediately after. Many microwaves have a defrost program or you can set your power for 50% or under to defrost more evenly. You’ve completed the hard part, now cook your food according to your labeled directions and get ready to enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal.
Serve your nutritious meal to your family
Whether your meal is prepared in the oven, sautéed on your stove top, or barbecued, your preparation time is reduced significantly because you’ve already completed your chopping, or mixing, or measuring in advance. Finish your balanced meal with last minute touches such as adding a salad, cutting up some fruit, or slicing some warmed bread. Make it a point to have your family help in putting your meal together, setting the table, or cleaning up afterward. Meal preparation doesn’t have to belong to any one person but can be seen as a shared responsibility. Serving your family a nutritious and delicious meal has been achieved. With a little organization on your part, you’ve taken out the daily decision-making of what to eat today. You’ve hopefully saved a few pennies in your food budget, cut your stretch in the kitchen, and have given yourself more time around the table with your family. Bon appetite.