Meal being prepared

How To Master Meal Planning

March 09, 2022

Cooking at home is great for your health and financial well-being, but it can be difficult to make tasty, nutritious meals each day of the week. Maybe you feel too tired from a long day at work, or you struggle for inspiration when you're not craving anything in particular. You might have a recipe in mind, only to realize you're missing a key ingredient from your cabinet. Fortunately, with a little preparation and forethought, it's a lot easier to eat well and eat healthy at home. These easy-to-follow tips and recipes will guide you to preparing better meals on a regular basis.

Pack Your Pantry

Keep staple foods stocked in your pantry. Having the right ingredients around makes it easier to serve up a quick weeknight meal without having to stop at the store first. Some key items are whole grain pasta, brown rice, canned beans, olive oil, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth and canned tomatoes. These shelf-stable ingredients are convenient, packed with nutrition and perfect building blocks for a healthy dinner.

Fortify Your Freezer

Don't limit the foods you have to those in your pantry. Wait for sales and stock up your freezer with whole grain breads, chicken, fish and shrimp. Store them in the freezer to extend their shelf life by months. You can use frozen items to make stews, sauces or heart-healthy stir-fries like this brown rice, chicken and vegetable dish. Yum!

Score with Salmon

Salmon is a flavor-filled fish that's heart-healthy and easy to prepare. Pair pan-fried salmon with brown rice and some fresh winter kale for an easy weeknight meal. Use seasonings like garlic powder, lemon pepper, or herbs and spices as a healthy alternative to salt or butter. Learn more about the different ways you can prepare this flavorful fish.

Bring on the Beans

If you're trying to cut back on meat, consider a protein-packed "meatless Monday" meal like these black bean tacos. All you need are some whole wheat or corn tortillas, canned black beans, salsa, and seasonings such as cumin and garlic powder. Add some diced onion and heart-healthy avocado slices if you have them on hand. Out of tortillas? No problem. Turn these tacos into a southwestern-style omelet, wrap them in lettuce leaves, or create your own Spanish rice by adding in some brown rice for a quick, nutritious meal.

Take a Step Back and Slow-Cook Your Meals

Even one slow cooker meal per week can save you tons of time in the kitchen. By planning and preparing ahead, all you'll need to do is throw the ingredients together and plug in the slow cooker. This method of cooking makes weeknight meals easy, especially if you are making meals for the whole family. It helps with controlling portion sizes and allows for easy, one-pot cleanup. Experiment with recipes that use your essential pantry items, such as this simple slow-cooked chicken and vegetable meal. For a meal with an extra kick of flavor, try these vegetable and chickpea curry or zesty chili one-pot fixes.