Published: January 21, 2022
Meal Planning Tips for Military Families
At the end of a busy day, one of the most dreaded questions that comes up is, “So what’s for dinner?” The mental load of getting through the day gets compounded when you also have to think about what to cook, whether you have all of the ingredients, how much time it will take, and the clean-up afterward.
And yet it’s a daily thing that catches so many of us off-guard. No wonder we end up ordering takeout instead.
That’s why Heather Campbell, registered dietitian with over a decade of experience in family and childhood nutrition and Air Force spouse, is so passionate about her work. As the owner of Glory Nutrition, Heather helps families take pride in the process of nourishing themselves. One way she does that is by teaching meal planning.
Meal planning may not solve the issue of food insecurity, which affects as many as 14% of enlisted active-duty military families, according to the 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey. However, there are benefits to meal planning, which may help tight grocery budgets stretch a little further.
One of the first benefits is you can tailor your meal planning to any budget, any family size, and any dietary need. Meal planning can also be as simple or as complicated as you would like, with the help of websites and apps (either free-of-charge or requiring a monthly subscription) dedicated to creating a weekly meal plan. These ongoing plans can be saved, with family favorites in the rotation, or you can try something new each week. The important thing is to make sure it’s something that works for you and your individual needs.
Other benefits of meal planning include:
- Staying on budget – Do you ever have a dinner idea, then find out that you don’t have the ingredients you need? It’s pretty easy to scrap the whole idea and order a pizza. However, doing so isn’t the most budget-conscious course of action. With a meal plan and shopping list, you can be sure to have the ingredients you need ahead of time and stick to what’s on the list. Following your grocery list may help curb impulse buying. But still, if you grab a candy bar at the checkout, I won’t tell.
- Enhancing nutrition – Food allergies, dietary needs, and food sensitivities can be taken into account when planning your meals. This makes it easier to choose healthier foods and meet your health goals.
- Reducing waste – When there’s a plan for everything on your shopping list, there’s less of a chance for those grocery items to go to waste. Plus, your meal plan can include using leftovers for lunch the next day, so that’s even less waste!
- Saving time – Meal plans can be for just a couple of days or an entire week. If you’re super motivated and organized, you can plan out the whole month. Setting aside an hour to plan dinners for the week and placing a grocery pick-up order can be a huge time-saver. Also, it could mean fewer trips to the grocery store.
- Alleviating stress – When dinner is already planned, there’s no last-minute scramble to figure out how to feed your hungry family.
Are you sold on meal planning yet? There are lots of benefits! We’re here to help make it easier to implement into your busy life.
“Meal planning can be done in a variety of ways, from batch cooking once or twice a week, to making a fresh meal each day,” Heather shares. Regardless of whether you prefer to batch cook your meals on a certain day of the week or make a new meal each day, Heather has some great suggestions to get you started with meal planning.
- Look at what groceries are on hand in your home already. As you build your list, take an inventory of what you already have so you don’t accidentally purchase duplicates.
- Lay out a general idea of what you would like to eat. Does your family prefer a particular meal? Save it, and add it to your next plan! It isn’t called Taco Tuesday for nothing.
- Decide how and when to bring in additional groceries. Planning meals can be a breeze if you utilize a grocery pick-up option. Download an app, add your list to the cart, and schedule a pick-up time. Bonus: Commissary CLICK2GO is an option in many locations.
- Check out local sales to find money savings on what you’re hoping to buy. If there’s a good sale on chicken, consider subbing in a few more chicken recipes for the week ahead.
As with learning any new skill, sometimes it goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t. Give yourself some grace if your meal plan for the week doesn’t work out 100% perfectly.
“By using a workable and flexible plan that fits within a needed budget, military families can find the confidence and consistency that can feel so elusive for military families,” Heather says. To help build that confidence, she’s included a FREE sample meal plan, which you can download and print!
Learn more about Glory Nutrition, Heather’s business. She’s on a mission to help families take pride or great pleasure in the process of nourishing themselves. Follow Heather for a wealth of FREE content on Instagram and Facebook at @GloryNutrition.
Whether you’ve set a New Year’s resolution to budget better, eat healthy, or cook at home more, Blue Star Families is here to cheer you on as we Nourish the Service!
Thank you to Amazon and Craig Newmark Philanthropies for sponsoring Blue Star Families’ Food Insecurity DEPLOY Fellowship!