Healthy Eating without Burning a Hole in Your Pocket is possible using this simple tool-meal planning.
“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.” (Ann Wigmore) With a little bit of planning, food can be medicine indeed with some $$$ savings as a side effect:)
In this post, I break down meal planning into 3 simple steps. Investing some time upfront on this will go a long way to save your health and your $$$. This project can be fun and once you invest the time initially, weekly planning will take hardly any time! Of course, it doesn’t have to be weekly. Some like to do it one month at a time. I like to do it weeklyJ
Make a list of all the Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Meats and Snack options that you enjoy and make sure to include as many as you can to give yourself more options (in case you get bored). For example, my list of veggies has avocadoes, bell peppers, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, carrots, tomatoes, onions, okra, garlic, peas, beets, eggplant, squashes, leafy greens, sweet potatoes and so on…
My list of fruits include: Berries, apples, mangoes, papaya, grapes, oranges, cantaloupe, honey dew, water melon, peaches, lemons, pear and pineapple. Again, your list may look different. Choose organic or local produce, when possible.
My list of snacks includes-carrots and celery with humus, nuts, apple and nut butters
Your list in each category can certainly be longer/different.
My list of grains: Qunioa, brown rice, multi grain flour (avoid if allergic to gluten). Also, I soak all my grains and lentils prior to cooking-easy on digestionJ If you choose Paleo, you can skip the grains.
My list of meats is very short-pasture raised chicken and salmon or cod fish. Yours can be much longer-just make sure to get meats from a quality source (preferably local farmer or co-op/grass fed).
The next step is to identify recipes around the foods on your list. This may be the most challenging part for some of us. Never fear. Time to call mom or grandma for family favorite secrets J You may also search your local library for cook books or the internet-google and pinterest- of course! This step may take the longest. Personally, it is the one I enjoy the most. However, if you are pressed for time check out http://www.instantfundas.com/2010/08/15-websites-to-find-recipes-by.html. The above site provides an overview of all the different websites which will help you create recipes from ingredients. For those who prefer Paleo, you can check out http://elanaspantry.com/
The thing to be sure when following recipes, is that we make healthy substitutions, when possible. Ex: replace margarine or PAM cooking spray with grass fed butter or extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil (organic where possible). Another healthy substitution is quinoa or brown rice for white rice. Whatever you do, make sure it is something you will enjoy eating. Let us not forget to eat for pleasure as well-Remember healthy does not have to mean boring!
Use blank meal planning templates (pinterest and google gives you a variety to choose from) or better yet there are meal planning apps like Meal Board (www.mealboard.com) as well as sample meal plans at http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/our-free-meal-plans/
Eat organic or local, when possible. Not all our fruits and vegetables need to be purchased organic. The Environmental Working Dozen publishes a list of the “dirty dozen” each year. These are high in pesticide and should be purchased organic. They renew the list every year. The “dirty dozen” for 2015 from the EWG is as follows- apples, peaches, nectarines, berries, grapes, celery, spinach/kale, cucumbers, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, potatoes. These should be purchased organic when possible. Sometimes organic frozen is cheaper than the fresh. I have found this to be true especially of berries (unless the fresh ones are on sale). Do not forget to like the Facebook page of some organic brands to gain access to coupons. When possible purchase quality meats as well. Elizabeth Wilson (financial coach, debt management) has some tips for doing this without breaking the bankJ Her blog post has some great money saving tips!! http://findyourzeroes.com/eating-healthy/
Meal planning using these three simple steps should ease some of the stress of preparing meals at home. If you are not used to cooking your meals, start with the simplest recipes possible (realsimple.com). My personal favorite is the chickpea cucumber salad with organic yogurt on the side.
Remember that change takes time. Baby steps are never a waste. Start somewhere. Bulk cooking with a friend over the weekend and storing in a freezer can help you get off to a reasonable start.
Your suggestions, thoughts and comments are welcome!