The Benefits of Meal Planning

The Benefits of Meal Planning



Meal planning makes a big difference in the quality and freshness of your diet and can be a big factor in finding healthy choices at chow time. When creating the plan, the whole household can get involved, which is great for kids too. If you want to save time and money, eat nutritious food and cut down on the amount of waste going to the landfill, then meal planning is the key. 



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Meal planning is a great way to save time, as you’ll only be running off to the grocery store once or twice a week, instead of having to go regularly after work in a panic. Sitting down to do the planning will only take about a half hour, but you will make up that time by not frantically searching the fridge and cupboards trying to find something to eat. You are also saving time by not having to wait in line at the drive thru.


Cook large meals and make a specific plan for leftovers. This stops leftovers from going in the garbage or rotting. It also gives you a break from having to cook every day. Cooking your proteins in large batches can be a timesaver; for example, fry a lot of ground beef for tacos one night and then save the extra for spaghetti the next evening.


Everybody knows the feeling of guilt after discovering a bag of rotten vegetables in the crisper. It’s common to get excited about cooking vegetables while in the produce section of the grocery store since the veggies all look so colorful and delicious. But if you are not meal planning, so many of those veggies will be forgotten. It’s not just the vegetables we waste, sometimes it is expensive cuts of meat that get freezer burned or dairy products that went sour. When using a meal planner, it’s easier to keep track of expiration dates. Meal planning cuts down on the food bill because it’s a lot less likely that food will go to waste. You buy only what you will need. Fewer purchases will get shoved to the back of the fridge or freezer and left to go bad.


Every health and fitness expert will agree that meal planning will improve the overall wellness of any household. Sitting down to plan out meals affords you the time to examine what you will be eating. It is much more likely that you will eat at home, which cuts down drastically on the number of calories you consume. Knowing that you have a house full of food will make you a lot less likely to hit the drive thru on the way home. Taking a list to the grocery store reduces impulse purchases. Meal planning gives you the chance to examine the amounts of real, whole foods you are eating instead of relying on pre-packaged foods. 


Decision fatigue is a state of mind you fall into at the end of a long day. You have been fighting to do the right thing and make healthy choices all day long. Your willpower has been drained. When decision fatigue sets in it’s more likely that you will reach for any food available. Having healthy ingredients in the house ahead of time makes it more likely that you will choose those nutritious foods, even when exhausted.


Gathering all the members of the household together to meal plan gives everybody their say, making it much more likely everybody will pitch in to do some cooking, and hopefully the dishes too.

 

Getting input from children on what they would like for meals is an excellent practice. It gives children some power over what they see on the table and gives you the opportunity to discuss nutrition with them. This ability to choose teaches them an awareness of what they are consuming that will last a lifetime. This especially helps with kids who are picky about their food.


You will also have a better variety of foods when you meal plan. With the calendar in front of you, you will see when you have repeats and decide to spice things up with some new recipes. You can also plan to buy produce that is available seasonally, which will increase the taste and freshness of your food.


Meal planning for lunches will cut down on the cost of eating out at lunch. Homemade “brown bag” lunches tend to have way fewer calories than restaurant lunches. Brown bag lunches are much better for kids than eating school food, particularly in North American schools.


Meal planning only takes about a half hour each week to do, but the benefits to your physical health, finances, time and general quality of life are more than worth it. It is a good thing to do if you are single or a whole family. It’s an important tool for teaching children about nutrition and cooking. There are many helpful meal planning apps and websites available to help you get started today.








Instant Pot® Vegan Vegetable Soup

Instant Pot® Vegan Vegetable Soup

 

This delicious and easy soup recipe can be adapted countless ways to incorporate whatever fresh vegetables and herbs you have available. Be sure to add a splash of fresh lime juice right before serving to brighten the flavors!

 Prep time: 15 minutes

Active cook time: 7-8 minutes (+ time to come to pressure)
 Natural release: 10 minutes

Serves: 4-6


Ingredients:

1 T. extra virgin olive oil
4 large stalks celery, chopped
4 large carrots, sliced
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. chili powder
Sea salt & black pepper, to taste
6 vegetable broth, preferably organic
1 lb. red potatoes, quartered
2 whole bay leaves
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped
2 c. baby kale, roughly chopped
2 T. fresh lime juice

Directions:

  1. Add olive oil to Instant Pot® and select the “Sauté” function. Add garlic, celery, carrots, red onion, garlic powder, and chili powder. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste, and stir to combine.
  2. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and vegetables start to turn golden brown, approximately 4-5 minutes. Add broth and stir to combine, scrapping any brown bits off the bottom of the pot in the process. Turn the unit off.
  3. Add potatoes, bay leaves, and chopped tomatoes to the pot. Add lid and lock into place. Switch the vent to “Sealing” and set the “Manual” setting to 3 minutes.
  4. When cook time is complete, allow pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, then manually release any remaining pressure.
  5. Remove lid and discard the bay leaves. Stir in baby kale and lime juice, and season with additional salt and black pepper, if desired. Stir to combine and serve immediately. Enjoy! 

Instant Pot® Buffalo Chicken Wings

Instant Pot® Buffalo Chicken Wings



 Nothing beats the convenience of an Instant Pot® for quick, easy, and healthier chicken wings. Once cooked, a quick trip under the broiler is all you need to get that nice crispy finish.


You can save time by purchasing already-trimmed wings. However, you can save some money by trimming them yourself. See photo for approximate location of where to cut each whole wing. They are a little easier to trim AFTER they’ve been cooked. Immediately freeze the tips to make chicken stock later.

Note: This recipe is written for fresh or thawed wings. If using frozen wings, add 3-4 minutes to the active cook time.

 Prep time: 10 minutes

Active cook time: 14-16 minutes (+ time to come to pressure)
 Natural release: 10 minutes

Serves: 4-6


Ingredients:

4-4½ lbs. chicken wings

1 t. garlic powder, divided
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 c. water
 Sliced celery, for serving


Buffalo Wing Sauce Ingredients:

1 c. Frank’s original hot sauce
½ c. unsalted butter, melted
 ½ t. garlic powder


Directions:

  1. Sprinkle wings with the garlic powder and season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Place metal trivet inside Instant Pot® and add one cup of water. Arrange seasoned wings on top of the trivet before securing the cover in place. Switch the vent to “Sealing” and adjust the “Manual” setting to 8 minutes.
  2. While the wings cook, whisk the Frank’s hot sauce, melted butter, and remaining garlic powder in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
  3. When done cooking, allow pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes, then do a quick release for any remaining steam. Carefully remove lid and transfer
    wings to a large bowl. Set aside until just cool enough to handle.
  4. Meanwhile, position top oven rack in the top position and pre-heat broiler to high. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire cooling rack on top. Set aside.
  5. Pour 1/3 of the buffalo sauce on top of the wings and toss to coat. Transfer the wings to the wire rack on the prepared baking sheet and place under the broiler for 3-4 minutes or until the wings start to get crispy and develop some color. Turn the wings and repeat this process.
  6. Remove baking sheet from oven and toss the wings with half of the remaining buffalo sauce. Serve immediately with sliced celery and the remaining sauce on the side for dipping. Enjoy!
     

Cranberry-Pear Sauce with Rosemary and Ginger

Cranberry-Pear Sauce with Rosemary and Ginger



This gorgeous, delicious cranberry-pear sauce is sure to be a hit this holiday season! It is super quick and easy to make and does not include any refined sugar. Instead, it gets its sweetness naturally from ripe pears and a touch of real maple syrup. Once you try this recipe, you’ll never look at store-bought cranberry sauce the same.

 Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10-15 minutes, plus 15-20 minutes to cool

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

12 oz. fresh cranberries

2 medium ripe pears, peeled and diced

2 t. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
 3 T. fresh rosemary leaves, finely diced

3 T. real maple syrup

¾ c. water

Sea salt, to taste



Directions:

  1. Add cranberries, pear, ginger, rosemary leaves, maple syrup, and water to a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture starts to boil and the cranberries burst open, approximately 5 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for another 5-10 minutes. While cooking, mash the cranberries and pears with a wooden spoon. Season with a pinch of sea salt and stir to combine.
  3. Remove from heat and allow sauce to cool for 15-20 minutes before checking the consistency. Add a little water if the sauce is too thick. Taste and add more maple syrup for a sweeter sauce, if desired.
  4. Optional: For a smoother sauce, blend one-half of the cranberry mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth. Stir puree back into the remaining sauce before serving.
  5. Serve immediately or chill before serving. Enjoy! 


 
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