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Thursday, November 18 2010

Does the very thought of cooking the impending supper raise your blood pressure? Do you have a feeling of dread? "Oh no! I've got to go to the store before closing time!" or "I would have loved to have made THAT but I am missing one ingredient!" or maybe, "No honey, I can't help you with your homework because I have got to cook dinner now!"

There is nothing worse than approaching the evening with no clue as what you are going to serve the family. And if you are leaving work or you are tired, it is so easy to buy food which is less than nutritious and slap it on the table. Sure, you have provided food - but what messages have you given along the way?

Meal planning can help reduce this stress. We all plan our work schedules, kids' schedules, our wardrobes - but why do we leave food to the last minute? The benefits of meal planning are numerous.

Meal planning reduces stress

Take a little time out once a week to plan your healthy dinner recipes for the week. Note who is going to be out for dinner during the week and plan accordingly. Try to cook in such a way that you get a leftover meal from the meal that you cook from scratch. For example: if you are going to cook a roast chicken with a rotisserie rub you may as well cook two chickens. The next night you will be rewarded with a chicken pasta bake, chicken enchiladas, chicken soup or chicken quesadillas. The same goes for easy recipes for ground beef: make a double batch of Bolognese sauce and the next night you can make a lasagna, empanadas, beef tacos or a cottage pie. Using leftovers definitely reduces the stress around cooking. Plus, meal planning ensures that you follow a healthy diet plan.

Meal planning allows you to have family quality time

This is logical. If you have planned your meals at the beginning of the week you have a head-start. It means that often half of your preparation is done in advance. Better still, you may have been able to prepare something in the morning so that all you have to do is reheat it in the evening. This frees you up in the evening to help where help is needed or simply to enjoy your loved ones. It also gives you a little time for YOURSELF instead of being harassed!

Meal planning helps you to instill family values

This one sounds odd but it is true. If you buy a take-out or similar food, there is really little excuse for the family to turn off the television in order to come and sit at the table. All you have provided is some sustenance. FOOD. However, if you cook a meal from scratch, there is a sense of occasion. There is a reason to lay the table and for everyone to sit at it. There is a reason to come together for half an hour or more to eat the food that you have prepared. This then gives you the chance, over years, to share your values. And this doesn't mean that meal time should be around scolding bad manners. No, not at all. It is saying that this time is important family time where everyone can share the experiences of the day, where you can discuss alternative ways that a person could have handled a situation, giving encouragement or praise where it is due. It is also a time where you can create family traditions - in our family we say grace, not every night, but often enough for it to be meaningful. And if there is an occasion that needs prayer or thanksgiving we include that in a prayer at the beginning of the meal. Simple but special.

Meal planning is not a control freak thing: it allows for creativity

Lastly, meal planning is not an extension of controlling behavior. This is not organizing for organizing's sake. Rather, it is a means of bringing a modicum of calm and peace into our busy lives. It will save you time and avoid your going on random trips to the store. It will save you money because you will make the most of your ingredients. And it will allow you the flexibility and creativity to enjoy preparing daily meals instead of finding them a chore.

Quick Easy Dinner Ideas will give you lots of inspiring ideas. Monthly Meal Planning offers free monthly meal planners and a wide variety of healthy dinner recipes.

Fiona Lesley has had over 20 years of experience cooking delicious meals for family and friends alike. A teacher by profession, she brings together her years of time and money-saving tips at

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 10:13 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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