"What’s for dinner?"
At the end of a long day when you are harried, hurried and your family is hungry, that's not a question you want to hear - especially if you're asking yourself the same thing! Eating out or ordering in is an option for some busy days, but for families watching their budget there's a better strategy to regularly put healthy, quick meals on the table.
Our three-step strategy - Get Organized, Plan Ahead, and Make a List - is designed to put you in the driver's seat so that you have everything you need on hand to take the chore out of meal preparation.
Let our VIDEO "Shopping Sense - Planning and Organizing" show you how to put this plan into action.
1. Get Organized
Designate a spot in your kitchen or home office where you can file everything you need for planning healthy meals and snacks. Include a copy of Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide, weekly flyers, coupons for grocery specials and new recipes you’d like to try.
2. Plan Ahead
Create a healthy, well-stocked pantry.
Download and personalize a copy of the HealthyFamilies BC Pantry Planner to get you on track with planning. The Pantry Planner includes common food items and ingredients to keep on hand. Post the list inside your cupboard for easy reference. Simply note when you're running low on items and add them to your shopping list so the next time you go to the grocery store you’ll know exactly what you need!
Stocking a pantry from scratch can be a bit overwhelming and costly if done all at once.
Use these tips to make it more manageable:
- Watch for sales on pantry items and build it up gradually. Purchase one or two items each time you go shopping.
- Get the whole family involved! Encourage everyone to help out by picking some of their favourite healthy choices to add to the pantry.
- Check out garage sales for unique containers to store dry goods such as pasta, lentils, flour and sugar. Look for clear glass or plastic containers of varying sizes with tight-fitting lids.
Plan meals and snacks! Get the whole family involved in planning the week's meals and snacks. Including kids in planning is a great way to spark their interest in healthy eating, cooking and even gardening. Giving children a say will increase the likelihood of them eating what you serve. It's never too early or too late to begin.
Try these ideas:
- Encourage kids to create a work of art by drawing or crafting a meal-planning chart (be sure to include snacks) and post it on the fridge for everyone to see. Or download a copy of the HealthyFamilies BC Meal Planner.
- Let your family suggest their favourite foods from Canada’s Food Guide, including at least one food from each group in every meal.
- Plan healthy snacks to round out the day.
- Refer to flyers and coupons and take advantage of advertised specials to keep costs down.
- Make great looking meals by including a rainbow of colourful fruits and vegetables! Aim for one serving of dark green and orange coloured vegetables each day for added nutrients.
3. Make a List
Use your Meal Plan and Pantry Planner to prepare your shopping list. Involve your kids to provide an opportunity for them to practice simple reading skills as well as contribute their ideas to the menu. Help them organize the list according to a standard store layout to save time. The HealthyFamilies BC Meal Planner includes a handy shopping list outline that you can cut off and take to the store.
- Keep a supply of reusable grocery bags in your vehicle. Be sure to wash reusable bags often.
- Take a small magnifying glass to the store to help read the fine print on nutrition labels.
- Have a snack before you shop or take along a portable, age-appropriate snack - when tummies are grumbling, it’s hard for kids to take much interest in shopping. Likewise, you will be more likely to stick to your shopping list when your own appetite is satisfied.
- Choose a good time to shop - if possible take children shopping when the store is the least crowded and when you and the kids are rested.
- While it’s not always practical or possible, you are more likely to stick to your list if you shop alone rather than with children.
SODIUM MATTERS WHEN PLANNING HEALTHY MEALS
- Cut down on pre-packaged and processed foods when meal planning - these are the highest sources of sodium in family meals.
- Stock your pantry with a variety of seasonings and herbs without added salt. Remove salt from recipes whenever possible.
- Watch for specials in weekly flyers for low sodium or sodium-free canned products such as soups, broths, canned fish, canned tomatoes and stock your pantry.
- Build your meal plans with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits - these are naturally lower in sodium.
- For more information, check out our Sodium Articles and Blogs or these Sodium Fact Sheets.