Do you dread that question, “What are we making for dinner tonight?” Not only can last minute meals be boring and bland, they are stressful—and they tend to be less nutritious than if you have time to plan a well-rounded dinner. By thinking ahead you can save money, too. With a little extra planning you can stretch Monday’s roasted chicken with vegetables into Taco Tuesday, and chicken soup lunch on Wednesday.
- Save Money
Planning your meals in advance can make a big difference on your grocery budget. Going with a list helps to curb impulse buys when you are at the grocery store and help you become more aware of how much money you spend on food.
- Reduce Waste
Having your meals planned out and buying only what you need means that you are less likely to let that cabbage you thought was a good idea on your meander through the produce aisle go to waste. Send any leftover food scraps to the compost and start dreaming about your happy garden this spring. For more information on how to compost, head to the Department of Environmental Conservation or sign up for a composting webinar with your local solid waste management district.
- Stay Healthy
Being hungry and tired after a long day at work can lead us all to make unhealthy food choices, like picking up a last-minute pizza or reaching for that box of macaroni and cheese. Knowing you have all of the ingredients for a healthy meal at hand can keep you on track to eating well.
- Introduce a Bit of Variety
Studies show that the average family has 9 meals on rotation. Branching out and trying new meals doesn’t have to be stressful. Especially during the pandemic when we are all suffering from fatigue, trying new foods can help elevate our mood.
- Family Time
Cooking and eating together is a great way to bond and connect as a family group. 60 years ago, the average American family spent 90 minutes together at dinner time. Today its less than 12 minutes. Meal time brings families together and helps children develop positive values, social competencies, and strong relationships. Ask your kids to plan a meal and take the time to cook it together. Choices give kids a little bit of power during a time when the pandemic limits so much of what we can safely do. You never know, you may discover you have a little Julia Childs right under your nose!
Here are some fantastic recipe resources that your Blue Cross team often turns to for our meal planning:
Bon Appetite Basically has tips and recipes for the everyday cook. The bonus is that all of the recipes use just a handful of ingredients that are typically on hand in a regular kitchen, and don’t take hours to prepare. This simple ribollita is comfort food at its best.
Smitten Kitchen, let me count the ways I love you. One of my eight year old’s favorites is breakfast for dinner with the ever-reliable (and delicious) whole wheat banana and oat pancakes, and my ten year old can’t let a week pass without this swoon-worthy kale salad with pecorino and walnuts.
Epicurious has endless recipes, and often the recipe I search for takes me in another delicious direction entirely. A favorite this winter has been lentil and roasted garlic soup. Feel free to skip the fussiness of roasting the garlic in the olive oil for endless hours, and just toss a head of peeled, whole garlic cloves directly into the soup. For a little punch of creaminess add a heel of parmesan cheese in the last 15 minutes of simmering. This is a great soup that can be made into a satisfying meatless meal by omitting the steak.