Here are a few more things to consider when planning meals.
Check what is on sale in your grocery store and plan meals around those items. You can also stock up on good buys and freeze them, well wrapped with the date marked, to help you plan future meals.
What's in Your Pantry?
The foods you store are those you know your family likes. Find new recipes that use these ingredients and you will be able to gradually introduce different foods and flavors and expand their tastes.
If your family loves meat and potatoes, find ways to get more fruits and vegetables into their diet. Serve a smaller portion of meat and make up the difference with a big salad, toasted rolls, or rice pilaf. Begin with a favorite recipe, serve smaller portions of it, and add other nutritious foods to fill the dinner plate.
Not only is seasonal produce a better buy, but fruits and vegetables taste better when in season. Local produce may also retain more nutrients because they aren't shipped over long distances. Patronize farmer's markets and produce stands when possible for great value, taste, and nutrition.
Shake Things Up
Have fun with meal planning! Have breakfast for dinner, get your children involved, let other family members have turns planning meals, and even make a game out of planning a meal just with what's on hand. Don't be too concerned with perfectly balancing each day's nutrients. Try instead to balance nutrients, calories, and fat intake over several days.
Use Color as Key
The more color on your plate, the better balanced your meal. Plus a colorful plate is a treat for the eyes!
Hot foods, cold foods, and room temperature foods not only ensure that you are serving a variety of foods, but also make a more interesting meal.
No one likes a meal made of all soft foods or all crunchy ones. Thinking about different texture also automatically helps you include different kinds of foods according to the Food Pyramid.
Here's the most important meal planning tip of all: eat a variety of foods. For instance, don't plan meals with chicken four days in a row. The USDA calculates safe limits on pesticide and herbicide residue consumption based on a certain consumption level of foods. Eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, and dairy products to help reduce your risk of exposure to chemicals, and to ensure the most balanced diet. Scientists are discovering new chemicals and nutrients in foods every day that are necessary to good health. Eating a good variety of whole foods is the best way to have a healthy diet and a long life.
The more meal planning you do, the easier it will be. Have fun with the process, get your children involved, and enjoy watching how your eating habits change and improve with the seasons!