Whether you're cooking for a big family or dining solo, meal planning can make a big impact on your health and your pocketbook. Stick with it, and you'll see some positive results—even from planning just one to two meals a week.
Divide and Conquer
Build your meals around a handy visual aid called MyPlate, a virtual plate divided into sections for major food groups. Offered for free by the USDA, MyPlate can be accessed online by app or desktop. Start with your favorite meals first, then build from there. Not sure where to begin? Use some fun themes like "Taco Tuesday," "Meatless Monday," or "Pizza Friday."
Ask your picky eaters what foods they're willing to try, take them grocery shopping, and point out their options. Texture can make all the difference, so it's important to ask how they would like their food prepared. Gradually sprinkle experimental foods into their favorite dishes, and you might just be surprised when your anti-veggie eater reaches for more spinach.
The Dos and Don'ts of Buying in Bulk
- Do buy dry goods that are handy for everyday cooking.
- Don't buy big tubs of new and adventurous foods.
- Do avoid confusion by using labels.
- Don't let your frozen foods languish for too long. Fresh meats can go bad after four months, according to a Refrigerator Freezer Chart provided by the FDA.
Stock up on these Staples
These nutrient-rich, budget-friendly items are handy for whipping up quick meals
- Peanut butter
- Frozen fruits and veggies
- Rolled oats
Have Your Cake and Eat It Too
- Add a little fun to your menu and be realistic about your goals.
- Sticking to your shopping list will help you avoid sugary impulse buys.
- Incorporate some healthy fruit into your decadent delights.
- Planning for little indulgences can contribute to long-term success.