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Too Tired to Cook? 5 Ways to Create Fast Healthy Dinner Plans

Aug 19, 2008
When the extended family arrives to spend a few days you plan meals in advance and have all the ingredients on hand. With ease you cook two or three meals a day and wonder why you can't seem to plan this well the rest of the year. Your mother is worried your kids will never know how good a seven layer casseroles is and you have to admit that the expense of eating out is starting to turn your stomach. Unfortunately, your stomach is growing with that take-out food, despite feeling a bit sick about it all. You may even be one of the many people who have to search online for instructions on how to plan a spaghetti dinner. But with your busy schedule and limited energy, how do you discover the best meal planning approach that will thrive in your family?

Here are five suggestions to get you started:

1. Try a weekly meal exchange with another family in your neighborhood, giving it a trial run for a couple of months. In no time you will see the savings of time and energy, as you just have to make a double batch of your favorite lasagna, and feel the relief that you will receive a meal back another night. Before starting, split the expense of a set of disposable containers and lids that can be traded between the homes.

2. Recreate your favorite restaurant recipes. Search for "copy cat recipes" and soon you will be baking up a batch of Red Lobster's garlic cheese biscuits and a Bloomin' Onion. Just search online for the words "copy cat recipes" or "top secret recipes." Your family will quickly be saying they want to stay home and eat from your kitchen, which is a step toward creating healthy meal plans for teens who don't want to make time for a family dinner any more.

3. Check out a new trend: preparing a meal somewhere other than your home, such as using a meal preparation service. For example, Dream Dinners is in 37 states and boasts that though the price per meal may be a bit more than if you prepared it in your own kitchen, it's significantly less than eating out. It provides fast healthy dinner plans. And the meals are much more nutritious. For a set price, you can choose from a wide variety of meals, considering your family's likes, dislikes, eating restrictions, and budget. Then you just go in and prepare the meals right there, package them up, and bring them home to your freezer. You'll also pick up some great cooking creativity tips and confidence for future meals at home.

4. Avoid the temptation purchase entire meals of take-out. Instead, mix part of a meal from your favorite restaurant with a partially prepared meal at home. For example, it simple and inexpensive to make a large Greek salad with tossed with dressing, olives and feta cheese. Then order a large side order of Gyro meat from your local Greek restaurant. You'll get more value for your money and also have a fresh meal of something you typically would not make at home.

5. Few people actually desire to sit down and come up with a meal planning system that works for them, but when they do, they often wonder how they lived without it. Don't copy other's ideas, but come up with whatever works best with your schedule and available energy. Perhaps it's easy to make a double batch of that tortilla soup and freeze half for another meal. There are a few dinner menu planning software systems. Or design a blank print out of a weekly meal plan. Try breaking down the dinners by style of foods. For example, plan six night's meals as: one - beef; one - salad; one - sandwich; one - poultry; and two - fish.

So, flip through the magazines, dust off the cookbooks, ask your family members their favorite recipes and start planning. In no time you'll have at least twenty solid recipes that can easily get you through six weeks of meals. And don't hesitate to get everyone involved. Put the kids in charge of a meal a week, or have your spouse accompany you to a Dream Dinner style meal preparation outing. Soon your dinner blues will be gone and filled instead with a sense of accomplishment . . . and relief!
About the Author
Get a free download of 200 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend from "Beyond Casseroles" by Lisa Copen when you signup for HopeNotes invisible illness ezine at Rest Ministries. Lisa is the founder of Invisible Illness Awareness
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