How can you tell if the meals you’re planning to serve your family are healthy? Try these tips:
Get inspired. Look at health and fitness magazines and vegetarian and low-fat cookbooks to get new recipe ideas for healthy meals . Save recipes and menus that your family enjoys, and trade your favorites with family, friends and neighbors.
Stay balanced. Include all food groups in each day’s meals and snacks: grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy and protein. Try planning a meal using the food groups. When you’re done, try the SuperTracker to see how healthy it is.
Consider your budget. Think about how much money you have to spend on groceries this week. (See Food Hero’s guide to making a food budget for help.) If money is tight this week, plan to include several meals using staples like dry beans and pasta that you already have on hand.
Check for sales. Learn what day your grocery store prints weekly specials so you can plan menus using foods on sale. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are popular days for new specials. Scan your weekly newspaper ads to find sales. Look on your grocery store’s website — most stores have flyers and coupons you can download. See more tips under Shop for Less.
Consider your schedule. Think about how much time you’ll have during the week to prepare meals. If it’s a very busy week, you’ll need to have some quick meals planned. Check out this link to Food Hero quick recipes. If you aren’t as busy one week, you can prepare foods that take longer to cook and even freeze meals to eat later.
Consider family members’ schedules and preferences. Check family members’ schedules. Are there nights when a family member won’t be eating dinner at home? Also, try to include meals that you know most family members enjoy.
Invite your family to help. Sit down together and choose some recipes from the Food Hero collection or any set of healthy recipes your family likes. Invite family members to come up with themed meals such as Asian night or Friday night pizza.
Take it easy. Don’t plan too many complicated meals in one week—especially on weeknights! Include some "quick to fix" recipes, such as grilled sandwiches with a salad, for busy days when you know you won’t have much time to cook.
Save prep time. Include two or three recipes that all share the same common ingredient. If you have an ingredient on hand try searching Food Hero by its name for recipe ideas. For example, plan to cook extra rice with Wednesday’s chicken creole to use for Thursday’s rice salad. Or include three meals that call for chopped onions and plan to do all the chopping at once. Keep leftovers in the fridge for use within three days.
Plan to use leftovers. Think about ways you can plan to use a food more than once. Monday’s leftover baked chicken could go into Tuesday’s stir-fry. Make enough soup, chili or stew to use for a second meal. These foods often taste even better the next day, and they freeze well. See more tips under Leftovers.
Plan healthy meals. Find out how to put together healthy menus on the next page.
Make a meal calendar. Now you’re ready to write down what you plan to serve for each meal this week. Use the Weekly Meal Planner if you wish.
Make a shopping list. Make a list of the ingredients you’ll need to buy to make all the meals on your Weekly Meal Planner. Try out the Food Hero shopping list. Just include the ingredients you’re missing, and leave off those you already have at home — they may go on sale the following week! Learn tips for how to shop for less here.