Plan ahead to save time, money and eat healthier

Do you find yourself at the end of the day trying to figure out what to have for dinner?

Standing in front of the refrigerator door trying to figure out, what’s for dinner can lead to expensive options like ordering take out or going out for dinner. If you would like to find a way to be prepared every night for dinner, why not try planning a menu? Planning ahead saves time, money and can help you to eat healthier. It will also help cut money spent at the grocery store because you can then create a shopping list based on the items that will be needed for your menu.

Creating a menu is really a matter of planning for your main meal of the day. For example, your family might usually have the same type of foods for breakfast and eat lunch at school every day. In this common scenario, it makes sense to focus on the evening meal.

Try to arrange your weekly menu so that you can minimize the amount of cooking you have to do. For example, if you cook a beef roast at the beginning of the week, you can use the leftovers to make stew or sandwiches another day. This will help to save time and money.

Look for sale items in the grocery store advertisements while you are planning your menu. Take advantage of the sales and incorporate the sale foods into your menu. Another tip to make planning easier is to designate certain days of the week for one type of food. Friday night might be pizza night every week. Meatless Monday or Taco Tuesday are other ideas.

There are many tools available online to help with planning a menu. Some brands will send suggestions every day in your email or other social media. Check on the nutrition information due to high caloric content of some of the recipes.

Be sure to consider foods you have on-hand. Maybe you have chicken breast in the freezer. Plan a stir-fry or grilled chicken sandwiches to use some of the chicken. That’s one less ingredient you’ll have to purchase at the grocery store. Keep family favorites in mind too. If everyone likes spaghetti, include it a couple of times a month on your menu. Another idea is to check your recipes, cookbooks, or online recipe sites for time-tested favorites or a new idea to try.

One last thing to consider; look at your menu to see if you are including fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein to meet nutrient needs.

Once you get started with planning weekly menus, save the old ones to fuel ideas for future menus. You’ll feel more organized, save money and avoid trips to the store at the last minute. You will feel great as you easily answer the question “what’s for dinner?”

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