Meal Planning for the Busy Cook

One of the SMORE themes is Nutrition & Manners Matter.

Here is a post from a new contributor, Kelli Worley. M.S., R.D., L.D.

Meal Planning for the Busy Cook

Are you trying to eat healthier, but find yourself running out of time?  It can be done, with just a little planning.   Here are my top tips for eating well when you’re short on time.

1. Plan ahead. Once a week take some time to plan out your menu.  It can be as elaborate or simple as you want it.  Personally, I just plan our dinners, but some of you might find it helpful to plan lunch and/or breakfast as well.  As you jot down your menu, take a look at your calendar so you can see what nights you need quick dinners and what nights you have more time to cook.  At our house, Wednesday night is sandwich night and the weekend is when we typically prepare more time-consuming meals or try new recipes.

2. Let someone else do the menu planning for you. There are numerous websites, cookbooks, and blogs that have menus already planned out for you.  I recommend the following resources:

By doing a Google search, you can find many others.

3. Make wise use of leftovers. There’s a concept called, “Cook once, eat twice”, coined by the Beef Council.  The idea is to use the ingredients for your main dish in another recipe later in the week.  This saves time by having to cook less and money by not throwing away leftovers.  For example, cook a pork roast once night and use is to make sandwiches or soup another night.  Several resources that teach this are listed below:

4. Let someone else do the work for you. Buying ready-to-cook items can be a big time saver.  Some examples of quick and healthy foods are frozen vegetables that come in a steaming bag, quick-cooking brown rice, shredded cheese, bottled sauces, pre-cooked meats, and marinated meats.  Just be sure to read the food label first!  Some of these prepared foods are high in sodium.  Please note: I’m not recommending the boxed or frozen meals, like Hamburger Helper or Bertolli frozen meals.  Although those are okay in a pinch (and probably better than fast food), they are high in sodium and usually high in fat.  If you do buy some frozen meals for emergencies, read this WebMD article first.  Even faster than this, is using a meal prep service, like Main Dish Studio Kitchen.  Here you can make anywhere from 4-14 meals in just a few hours.  They have everything ready for you.  You just assemble, package, and freeze.

5. Prep your own ingredients. If you’re short on money too, buying ready-to-cook items will increase your food bill.  Instead, take an hour a week to do your own prep work.  Shred a block of cheese and freeze what you won’t use in the next few days.  Dice onions and peppers and freeze in individual plastic containers.  Make a pot of vegetable soup to snack on for the week.  Cook up some brown rice and freeze some for later.  (I recommend adding a little water before you heat it up in the microwave.)  Before cooking a casserole, freeze half for another night.

So, to meet your health goals, all it takes is a little planning ahead and the right the tools.  If you need help with your menu planning, please contact me.

Do you plan your meals ahead of time?  What works for you?

By: Kelli Worley, MS, RD, LD
Nutrition Solutions
Weight Management Specialist
Beaumont, TX
ph: 409-454-0417

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