I often marvel at those women who can whip up healthy and delicious meals seemingly effortlessly AND with a smile.
That’s not me. Not many smiles going on in my kitchen.
I do it because my husband can’t and we need to eat.
On occasion, I get adventurous and will try a new healthy recipe (while my children and husband groan), and sometimes it turns out well (for me, but it’s usually an epic fail for my husband and kids).
So I pretty much stick to what I know. Those tried and true recipes I know my family loves.
But then I ran into a problem: the meals I was making began to omit more and more of the healthier foods we all needed for good health. Out of shear tiredness (and reluctance to go into the kitchen), we had begun to eat out more, or we grazed on the quick, less-than-healthy foods found in the pantry or refrigerator.
We were beginning to look as unhealthy as we felt, and I knew then I had to make a change.
I had to find a solution that would not require countless hours in the kitchen and would not make my family run to the nearest restaurant.
I started researching and (somewhat) secretly trying new recipes and new combinations of foods. I tried different meal-planning strategies and experimented with various ways to prepare food. What I discovered is that healthy meal planning for moms like me can be easy. It just takes a little extra planning, finding the right recipes, and then scheduling the time to get it done.
Now, I still rather be somewhere other than the kitchen, but I don’t loathe it anymore. If you can use some help in this area, here are my tips to help make healthy meal planning easier:
Buy healthy pre-packaged foods. By “pre-packaged” I’m referring to foods like frozen vegetables, frozen brown rice, corn tortillas, and healthy vegan soup cups. Fresh is best, but when I’m short on time, these items can be a life saver. I have menus planned around these grab-and-steam foods and I always keep some on hand. However, I try to steer clear of canned or boxed foods, as they tend not to be as healthy.
Cook lots and freeze. I used to hate the idea of freezing food, but now I see the beauty of it. Investing the time to make extras on one day can help ensure I have healthy meals on hand throughout the week. My son and I love homemade oatmeal waffles, but they take me hours to cook on our single waffle iron. So I set aside time on the weekend and make enough to last us both through the week.
Pick 3 – 4 vegetables, starches, and meats that each family member likes. Plan a meal around these foods and keep them on hand. Mix and match the combinations so that you have several different meals to choose from. For example, my kids love green beans, broccoli and spinach. My husband loves cabbage and collard greens. They all love macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and haystacks (click the link for the recipe). So I keep these foods on hand and plan meals around them. What’s great is they never seem to grow tired of these foods since it’s their favorites.
Allow the kids to plan a meal and enlist their help in preparing it. Though you might have to plan in extra time with little hands helping, it can make cooking more enjoyable. And the kids are more likely to eat the meal since they planned and prepared it. My 6-year-old son loves making pancakes. He insists on doing it himself, measuring the ingredients, mixing by hand and then frying them. If you make it fun for them, they’ll enjoy being in the kitchen more. My goal is to raise two kids who grow up loving to cook (not like their mom).
Play upbeat music while you cook. Happy music makes me happy, and I need to be happy to cook. I usually choose music I can sing along with and before I know it, I’m done cooking. It really lifts my spirits and makes mealtimes enjoyable for me.
What about you? How do you make meal planning enjoyable?