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Heading Back to School with Health and Meal Planning On My Mind

This summer has been filled with nutrition peaks and valleys. Tons of wonderful fresh fruit from the garden and farmers markets have been a great addition to our meals and snacks. We have enjoyed everything from watermelon, to corn, to zucchini, to tomatoes, to purple carrots. Peak. We have attended two church festivals (pork chops on sticks, hot dogs, “tacos in a bag” –a.k.a. doritos with taco toppings), baseball games (cotton candy, nachos), a local carnival (more cotton candy, mini donuts), and this week the big kahuna – the State Fair (I’ll just say fried and on a stick and leave it at that.). Valley. And while I enjoy indulging in these favorite summertime foods – as does the rest of my family – it will be nice to step away from the junk and regroup as we head back to school and structure.

I will miss my cherubs as they start back to school. I will not miss grocery shopping with them. (It is often like herding cats.) I look forward to planning meals for a week and being able to get all of my grocery shopping done for the week in one trip. We eat healthier, more creative, more structured meals when I can do this. I am looking forward to the structure. I am looking forward to healthy meals.

If you are not a “meal planner,” let me assure you – I wasn’t one either. Some people are naturally gifted meal planners. (They are the ones making us feel bad on Pinterest.) Others of us need a lot of practice. I will tell you that there is a learning curve to it, but once you figure out what works for your family, it can be a huge time, sanity, and money saver. Here are three things to keep in mind as you get started:

1-      What nights do you need something super fast? For those nights, plan a crockpot meal or choose your go-to speedy meal. If it helps, do some prep earlier in the day or the night before to speed things up.

2-      Plan your produce. If you buy a lot of fresh produce, make sure that you plan to use the stuff that will go bad earlier in the week to avoid waste.

3-      Let the family have input. Don’t bear the burden of coming up with all the ideas yourself. If you are out of ideas, ask for input. You get a break from planning and they will likely be even more enthusiastic about dinner those nights because it was their choice. Win-win.

If you are not a meal planner by nature, give it a shot as the school year begins. As with everything, start small; plan for two or three meals during the week as you work your way up to more. If you ARE a meal planner, share your tips with us! What do you find effective?

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