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

by Lisa Copen  
8/18/2008 / House & Home

So, your mother tells you that your family is eating out too much and your kids will never know a home-cooked meal. And you have to admit that the cost of eating out is starting to make you a bit sick to your stomach, but not enough to get rid of those few extra pounds you've been putting on. With your busy schedule, however, and limited energy, where exactly can you find the best meal planning strategy that will succeed for your family? If you're you are someone who checks with an online search engine about how to plan a spaghetti dinner, you may just need some tips.

Here are five suggestions to get you started:

1. Agree to try exchanging meals with one or two families a couple times a week and give it a trial run for a month or two. It's easy to double your batch of your signature lemon chicken dish one night, and know that you will receive back a prepared meal another evening. To simplify exchanging meals, split the cost in advance of inexpensive disposable containers and lids that can be swapped between homes.

2. If you have a craving from your favorite restaurant, look online for the recipe. You may have a good chance of finding it when you search for words like "copy cat recipes" or "top secret recipes." Before long your kitchen will start smelling like the Olive Garden. This is a great way to produce healthy meal plans for teens who think they are too busy for dinner at home.

3. Consider trying a meal preparation service like Dream Dinners. For a set price, you go in and choose meals based on your family's likes, dislikes, eating restrictions, and budget. Then you prepare the meals right there and package them up to bring them home to your freezer. The result? Fast healthy dinner plans and finished meals. The cost may be a bit more than if you did it in your own kitchen, but it's significantly less than eating out and much healthier. It's a good chance to learn how to cook better too.

4. Don't be tempted to buy entire meals of take-out, but rather mix up a large meal from your favorite restaurant with partially prepared meals at home. For example, it's inexpensive to prepare a huge Greek salad with dressing, olives and feta cheese. Then stop by your local Greek restaurant and order a large side order of Gyro meat. You'll get more for your money and also feel like you're treating yourself to something that is hard to prepare at home.

5. Get organized with meal planning by deciding what works best for your schedule. Can you make a double batch of meat loaf and freeze half for another evening? Online you can find various dinner menu planning software systems. Or find a blank print out of a weekly meal plan. Does it help to break down the dinners by style of foods? For example, plan six night's meals as: two - fish; one - poultry; one - beef; one - salad; one - sandwich.

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!

If you lead a support group or are considering it, don't miss Lisa Copen's new book, for your ministry needs. Over 300 pages with step-by-step instructions on how to write a vision statement, promotion and attendance and much more!

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