Meal Planning Tips

March is National Nutrition Month®, a set time to focus on building healthy habits “Bite by Bite”. One simple way to start eating healthier at home is to make a weekly meal plan. This does not have to be complicated or expensive – a simple list of dinner ideas for most nights of the week is a great starting point!

group of adult students holding certificates and cooking prizes

Cooking Matters participants proudly display their cooking gadgets upon graduating from the 6-week program.

Last week, Cooking Matters participants learned about meal planning and shopping on a budget. The Cooking Matters program is offered quarterly at Gleaners’ on-site food pantry in partnership with Indy Hunger Network, and this particular lesson was taught by a Registered Dietitian and dietetic intern from IUPUI. Below are some of the points they covered with the group:

  • Benefits of meal planning include saving time and money at the store, reducing food waste, and as a result incorporating a variety of home-cooked meals into your diet.
  • Begin by taking inventory of what you already have at home – are there foods in your pantry, fridge, or freezer that need to be used?
  • Make a grocery list as you run out of things at home – this helps avoid impulse buys or making extra trips to the store.
  • Use MyPlate as a guide for incorporating healthy choices from all five food groups into meals (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy).
  • Be flexible and realistic – plan for quick and easy meals on busier nights of the week, and make double batches of recipes on days when you have more time to cook. Utilize recipe “shortcuts” like pre-cut frozen vegetables, rotisserie chicken, or cooked canned beans to save time without too much extra cost.
  • Shop with sales, coupons, and manager’s specials at the grocery store. Compare the unit price of items (cost per ounce or pound) rather than the total package price to find the best deals. Buying in bulk or purchasing generic brands can help you stick to a grocery budget as well.
  • Buy fresh produce that is in season for better taste at a lower price. SNAP participants can take advantage of programs like Fresh Bucks that match SNAP dollars at participating farmers markets to get even more fresh fruits and vegetables for their money!

Gleaners strives to promote the health of those we serve. We do this by providing a variety of nutritious foods, offering healthy recipe ideas, sharing nutrition education opportunities, and partnering with community organizations that offer other services our clients may need.