Something that often gets overlooked when starting a healthy lifestyle is how all that good-for-you food is going to end up in your pantry. While the intention is great, if healthy meals aren't readily available, you're probably not going to eat healthy meals. Generally, eating out is not the best option, and it is definitely more expensive. The average American spends about $3,500 per year on grocery store trips per person and $2,800 per year per person on fast food and restaurant meals. Instead of wasting your money on eating out 7+ times per week, fix your meals at home!
Although having every meal at home is completely unrealistic, efficient grocery shopping habits can make eating healthy, homemade meals much easier. Here is a step-by-step instruction manual on realistic home cooking for dummies:
1. Make a budget and frequency for your grocery shopping. Plan what will work best for you and your family.
2. Using the weekly paper from your grocery store to look at deals and sales, plan out meals for however many weeks between grocery trips. Include solid meals such as family dinners, themed meals such as Taco Tuesday and Meatless Monday, busy day meals that can be made in the crockpot, frozen and reheated, or prepared in fifteen minutes or less (spaghetti or grilled cheese and veggies, etc.), and meals that can be packed like sandwiches or salads. If, like me, you go grocery shopping every three to four weeks, your produce will either be gone or bad after the first two weeks, so plan on eating canned or frozen fruits and veggies after that. * Pro-tip: Invest in Tupperware.
3. Write a grocery list based on your meal plan and budget. Don't forget to include snacks! Make sure you plan for your week's worth of frozen and canned fruits, veggies, beans, and other sustainable foods.
4. Go shopping, and stick to your list!
5. Schedule your meals to match your busy life. If you know you're not going to be home all day, fill a cooler with your easy pack meals. Have an hour between work and soccer practice? Plan to have a crockpot meal ready that night. Prepare a full blown meal on those rare days you have nothing to do.
6. Follow through with your schedule. Eating out once or twice per week isn't a big deal, but every day isn't going to fit in with your healthy lifestyle.
If you start making the grocery shopping thing a habit, you'll be eating out much less and making your own meals will become progressively less annoying. You'll know what's going into your food, save money, and (hopefully) eat better!