• Health
  • Parenting

Keys to home-cooked meals: planning and shopping ahead

Salmon and asparagus on plate

In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1. How to start?
2. How to be organized?
3. What's a healthy mix?

It all begins with ideas.

Although planning meals and cooking at home can be time-consuming, it’s rewarding in many ways. Not only do you save money and boost healthy choices, but you also foster family bonding when working together. 

“Grocery shopping and cooking at home saves a significant amount of money on any budget,” says registered dietician Hannah Michaels, a former nutrition adviser at the Orlando-based Nutritious Lifestyles, a program funded locally by Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County.  “Frozen fruits and vegetables are healthy and very budget friendly.” 


Start by compiling a list of ideas for meals, she says. If you find a good recipe online or in a magazine, save it for a future list.

“Look for recipes with ingredients your kids like and invite them to join you in the grocery shopping, cooking and serving of foods,” say Dr. Mary L. Gavin, a pediatrician and senior medical editor at KidsHealth.

Consider buying a cookbook with recipes that use healthy ingredients in common favorite dishes, such as “Deceptively Delicious” by Jessica Seinfeld.


Each week, mark on your calendar which day you might have two to three hours to grocery shop and prep meals to freeze for the week, Michaels says. Many people pick Sunday evenings.

As soon as you get home from the store, separate and bag veggies, fruits and prepackaged meats. This will facilitate portion sizing and on-the-go meals and snacks.


Michaels encourages following the "My Plate" model as described at choosemyplate.gov.

"When preparing a meal for your family, keep in mind the more colorful, the better," she says. In other words, varying colors of fruits, vegetables and grains should make up the majority of the plate.


• Hannah Michaels, former nutrition adviser, Nutritious Lifestyles
• Mary L. Gavin, senior medical editor, KidsHealth


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