Food planning for busy people

We know life is more hectic than it was 60 years ago. Our pace is faster, our workload larger, and the time we have to get everything done is shorter. Convenience gadgets and fast food are partially a response to how hurried our lives have become. But getting into the kitchen is the best way to improve your health.

From deciding what to buy to preparing the food the whole process can seem daunting and tedious. Especially in the beginning, trying to find what works can be frustrating. But even the busiest people have found ways to prioritize cooking.

Here are few things to consider:

The first and most important point: create a routine. Decide how much time you have, when you have the time, and how often you can shop for groceries. A lot of people decide to shop for groceries once a week, but it’s really what works best for you. Whatever you decide try to do it at the same time each week. A good chunk of eating healthy is just about finding a routine.

Next, decide what you will cook. It might sound obvious, but creating a concrete, written plan will work better than good (but abstract) intentions. Make up a menu–or at least outline types of meals you’d like to prepare (for example, veggie dish on Tuesday night). Play around with what works for you. You will find that as time goes on you will have more recipes to play with, more flexibility with substituting ingredients, and the process will become easier. In general, the more specific you can be the better.

That goes along with the third step: find a website that will help you organize. You don’t have to write down all the ingredients you need anymore. There are websites where you can keep recipes and when you need to make that recipe you just add it to your “shopping list.” Then all the ingredients and amounts will show up. Usually the items are even categorized for you. A couple of websites that are popular for these kinds of tasks are: allrecipes and ZipList.

Those are the overarching principles to food organization. I’ll be writing more about this in the future, but I’ll leave you with three more thoughts on saving time:

  1. Consider your crockpot. It wasn’t just a good idea in college. It can be a great time-saving tool. Throw some stuff in, go to work, and dinner’s ready when you come home.
  2. Don’t be afraid to supplement dishes with prepared food from your health food market’s deli or quality, frozen foods. Sometimes you just don’t have the time or energy, and as long as you make good choices these foods can be helpful to busy families.
  3. If you have kids, get them involved in cooking. It will save you time, and you’ll be teaching your children good food habits they will carry with them when they are adults. Plus, many studies have found that cooking with adults in the family improves kids’ self-esteem, helps them feel valuable, and makes them more likely to try new foods.

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