Staying on top of nutrition - the fuel we give our bodies - is much easier, like many things, when you have a plan. Meal planning gives you control over what you feed yourself and your family - and helps prevent those let's-just-order-pizza-tonight nights.
One of the things I learned during my obession with Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals (five-ish years ago, pre-children) is that ordering in isn't always unhealthy. But: you can't control the ingredients you're eating, and you end up spending more than you would if you bought your own ingredients and made a recipe yourself. Cooking really doesn't have to be complicated to be good and healthy.
There are numerous resources online (just visit Google and give it a whirl) for getting tips on meal planning. And, depending on your lifestyle, you may find that planning tips you use may not work for someone else. It does take a bit of discipline, truth be told. But once you do it, you'll find it makes shopping much easier - and it makes for easier mealtimes.
Here are some of my meal-planning tips:
1. I try to pick an evening when I have some time to myself and sit down with my recipe notebooks and cookbooks.
2. I like to use one new recipe a week - and keep the other recipes tried and true.
3. To speed things along on choices, I try to choose a recipe that fits the following: a vegetarian night, a fish night, a poultry night, a lean beef night, a leftover night, a creative night (where everyone has something easy and different, or breakfast for dinner, etc.) That makes 6 nights. We usually eat out at least one night for dinner.
4. I like to make sure the meals are colorful: protein + whole grains + 1-2 veggies + 1 fruit.
5. If I have time, I usually bake a dessert on a weekend to munch on the next week.
Some great resources:
Cooking Light's online community. I've learned so much from this community! Members are constantly sharing recipes/tips and weekly menus on the message boards. I highly recommend a visit - it's really educational and entertaining. You won't want to leave!
Meal Makeover Moms. They have healthy, delish recipes and helpful planning tools on their site.
Raise Healthy Eaters. A blog dedicated to family nutrition with tons of helpful tips on meal planning - one of the best I've found.
Super Baby Food. Yes - it's a cookbook for making baby food, but it's also a crash course on good nutrition, with handy charts for good meal planning.
Meal planning = easier cooking = happier eating!