Family meal planning for beginners

Remember: you can't plan out your whole life. Some planned meals will not happen and that's okay.

Remember: you can’t plan out your whole life. Some planned meals will not happen and that’s okay.

Hello busy moms, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, aunts – how do you feed yourselves and your families? In this article, I’m going to share some practical tips on family meal planning that I’ve used over the years to feed my family of five.  Before we get into the tips, let’s define “Healthy Meal Planning.”

Healthy: Whole foods are the easiest and the best ingredients for your meals.  I try to select farm fresh, locally grown food products where possible.  We have several local farmer’s markets here in our area. Our local supermarkets can fill in the gaps when you need something unavailable at the farmers market or out of season.

Meal: In addition to the regular meal times of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I also try and factor in healthy snack times.  A mid-morning and mid-afternoon healthy snack helps keep the metabolism stoked for optimum performance in school, work, and play.

Planning: Healthy meals don’t just happen automatically; they are the result of deliberate planning.  Most families don’t intend to eat junk food, but fall into the trap due to lack of time and convenience.

Tips on Healthy Meal Planning:

  • Create a schedule of meals for the week and use key meal times as anchor points.  This can be a hand-written note, an erasable board on your refrigerator (which is what we do), or an electronic note on your phone/tablet/computer.
  • Bookmark/save recipes that you read in Fayette Woman, other magazines, blogs, Facebook, and other information sources.  Use those recipes to help fill in scheduled meals.
  • Prepare food in advance, when you can – monthly freezer meals you can store for slow cookers, bag lunches that you’ve prepared, partially cooked meals that someone else can heat up, and so on.  Advance preparation will make healthy eating convenient.
  • Be flexible in your meal plan; life happens, and you’ll probably find one or two scheduled meals have to change.
  • Have healthy snacks on hand to help fill in the gaps during the day and establish nutritious snacking habits. Almonds, berries, apples, carrots, and snow peas are some of my favorites.
  • If you do have to eat out, look up the menu ahead of time online so you’ll know what healthy eating options are available.
  • Provide variety in the types of cuisine you prepare and gently introduce your family to new foods.

Perhaps most importantly, don’t get discouraged.  Your family may not like what you plan to prepare – that’s fine, just stand your ground and let them know they can eat on their own.   Extracurricular events, sports, meetings, and so forth often happen in the evening and interrupt dinnertime.  Try your best to work around those situations, but continue to focus on the big picture of providing healthy meals for your family.

What and how you feed yourself and your family is your responsibility.  Accept that responsibility and set good, deliberate habits of healthy meal planning.  You’ll not only be doing yourself a favor, but you’ll be setting a great example for your family and friends.  Carrot stick or apple, anyone?

Read more about our family fitness adventures and get some practical tips by visiting my new blog at We’re also on Facebook.

Mary Catherine Domaleski

A native of Fayette County, I am a wife, mother of three, personal trainer, and group fitness instructor. I teach fitness classes professionally at World Gym here in Fayette County, as well as donate time to teach free classes at a number of church-sponsored locations around the area.

June 29, 2016