By Rebecca Mason, RDN
As a registered dietitian-nutritionist, I’m frequently asked, “how can I improve my diet?” And my answer is: planning. Food preparation and planning is central not just to our nutrition, but to staying on budget as well. We all know that cooking at home is a great way to balance your budget and your nutrition—but it can be a challenge to adjust for the number of meals you need to make to feed the whole family (or just have enough for yourself and the week’s lunches).
Here are my top five tips to help make meals easier and keep your nutrition on track, no matter if you’re cooking for you, for two or for the entire crew.
- Plan to have leftovers. The great thing about planning to have leftovers is that you cook (and clean up) one time, but eat twice. This is not only a great strategy if you’re cooking for one; it’s also beneficial for large families who need a quick meal on a particularly busy day. Bonus tip: planning how and when you’ll use leftovers during the week ensures you reduce waste, and save cash.
- Use that freezer. Many items, like soups, stocks, meat and even burritos, freeze well. And don’t forget to stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables. It’s a great way to use just the amount you need for a meal or smoothie, and they last longer than fresh produce.
- Shop the bulk bins. No matter the size of your family, bulk bins are a great way to get the perfect amount of goods like grains, nuts, dried fruit and spices, often at a reduced price over prepackaged goods. Need a small amount of nuts for a recipe? Bulk bins! Need several pounds flour for your family of six? Bulk bins!
- Buy your proteins in bulk, too. Many grocery stores offer discounted pricing on larger packages or “family packs.” Not feeding the whole crew? Use freezer bags or invest in a vacuum sealer and divide the package into the portion size you need.
- Make individually-sized portions. Rather than making large casseroles, make multiple single-serve, pre-portioned dishes. These are great for keeping portion sizes in check; you can freeze the leftovers individually and reheat only what you need later.
Meal prep is smart for families big and small and keeps everyone happy, healthy and full. Happy National Nutrition Month!
About the Author: Rebecca Mason, RDN, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and product specialist in the Wellness Department at Priority Health. She is passionate about helping families and individuals improve their health through nutrition education and nutritious food access. Rebecca is certified in adult weight management, and has a background in both clinical nutrition and wellness programming.