Healthy Meals - Even on Weeknights!

  

Dining Table

You know that healthy meals are important for you and your family, but how can you provide healthy meals every day when you're pulled in so many directions? Swinging through a drive-through on your way home from work may seem like the only possible solution to getting dinner on the table, but some planning and preparation can help simplify your dinner routine.

Your days are hurried and sometimes frantic. From the moment your eyes open until you sink wearily into bed at night, you're balancing your own needs and the needs of your family in a never-ending cycle. By the time the weekend rolls around, you're left with a list of half-finished projects and chores as long as your leg - and that doesn't include the kids' practices, games and concerts.

Use these tips to plan your dinners ahead of time so that you can spend your evenings actually enjoying your family's company and maybe even relaxing!

Plan Your Menu

Plan out your healthy meals in advance. Include main course, side dishes, etc. Create a menu for the entire week so you know "what's for dinner" before they even ask.

Once your menu is planned, do your grocery shopping based on the menu. My favorite way to do this is to create sub-categories for groceries (meat, produce, dairy, etc) and list each ingredient for each meal under its proper category.

For example, this week my menu looks like:


Sunday

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans

Ingredients: ground beef, bread crumbs, eggs, ketchup, potatoes, beef broth, green beans

Monday

Chicken crescent squares, steamed broccoli

Ingredients: chicken, crescent rolls, cream cheese, broccoli

Tuesday

Baked tilapia, baked potato and salad

Ingredients: tilapia, lemon, onion, potatoes, mixed greens, radishes, carrots, avocado

Wednesday

Chili, homemade bread

Ingredients: ground beef, stew meat, onion, garlic, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, 

Thursday

Homemade pizza

Ingredients: cheese, tomatoes, pepperoni, bacon, onion, mushrooms, sausage

Friday

Pot roast, carrots and potatoes

Ingredients: beef and/or pork roast, beef broth, carrots, potatoes

Saturday

Hamburgers, chips and cucumber salad

Ingredients: ground beef, potato chips, cucumber, onion, vinegar

"WHOA! How are mashed potatoes and gravy or potato chips healthy?"

When you're a busy working mom or dad responsible for providing dinner every night, homemade mashed potatoes and gravy or all-natural potato chips are light-years healthier than most take out, drive-through or delivery options. The quality of the ingredients you choose are of utmost importance. Choose all-natural, organic and local options whenever possible. Choose free-range organic chicken and eggs. Choose grass-fed organic beef.

Using high quality, healthy ingredients results in healthy meals.

I don't include all of the ingredients. For example, I know that I have plenty of flour, sugar, and spices for chili, meatloaf and other dinners. After transferring the ingredients to my shopping list, I have something like this:

Produce

  • green beans
  • broccoli
  • lemon
  • onion - bag
  • potatoes - bag
  • salad greens
  • radishes
  • carrots x2
  • avocado
  • garlic
  • tomatoes x2
  • jalapeno peppers
  • mushrooms
  • cucumbers


Meat

  • chicken
  • tilapia
  • ground beef x3
  • stew meat
  • pepperoni
  • sausage
  • bacon
  • beef &/or pork roast



Dairy

  • eggs
  • crescent rolls
  • cream cheese
  • pizza cheese
  • cheddar for chili

Other

  • ketchup
  • beef broth x2
  • vinegar
  • potato chips

Before you head to the store, check for other items you may need - breakfast foods, milk, eggs, cheese, etc ... and add them to your list.

Make Dinner When You Can

If your only downtime is after the kids have gone to bed, then make tomorrow's healthy meal tonight. If you generally have Sunday afternoons free, then make the whole week's menu on Sunday. Let's break down the menu, one day at a time.

Sunday

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans

Prepare on Sunday.

Monday

Chicken crescent squares, steamed broccoli

Make and refrigerate chicken crescent squares on Sunday.

Tuesday

Baked tilapia, baked potato and salad

Prepare on Tuesday.

Wednesday

Chili, homemade bread

Make and freeze chili on Sunday.

Prepare dough Sunday night and refrigerate.

Pull out dough and let rise while at work Wednesday. Bake Wednesday night.

Thursday

Homemade pizza

Make and freeze pizza(s) on Sunday.

Friday

Pot roast, carrots and potatoes

Prepare and freeze all ingredients on Sunday.

Place ingredients in slow cooker before leaving for work Friday morning.

Saturday

Hamburgers, chips and cucumber salad

Prepare on Saturday

Following this type of schedule does eat up a good portion of a day off - prepare to spend at least 4 hours in the kitchen on Sunday. To minimize time and maximize fun, ask your kids to help. I know the little ladies here (5 and 7) are not culinary specialists, but we all sure have fun when we're experimenting in the kitchen. We'll all enjoy these healthy meals even more knowing we've prepared them together!

Obviously, you'll have some items that can't be prepared ahead of time, but planning and cooking ahead will allow you to spend just a fraction of the time it usually takes to prepare healthy meals for your family each night.

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