Problem: I can’t decide what to cook.
Solution: Plan meals for the week.
Creating a weekly meal plan takes the stress out of thinking about what to cook and encourages healthier eating as well. “Food groups that many people fall short in, such as vegetables, can be planned into meals or recipes and therefore are more likely to be regularly consumed,” says Hogger. Start by taking an inventory of what you currently have in your fridge, freezer and pantry and plan meals around them. Don’t forget to use up leftovers. Not only are you stretching the ingredients and saving money, but it eliminates food waste as well.
Meal Inspiration: Chicken and Zucchini Kabobs with Tropical Cous Cous
Problem: My budget is limited.
Solution: Take advantage of offers and sales.
“A plan for what you are going to buy each week means you can look for sales and specials on those items,” says Hogger. Check out offers from your local Sobeys and design meals around these ingredients or stock up on them for later use. Hogger also suggests planning meals to include leftovers, using canned or frozen fruits and vegetables and experimenting with cheaper cuts of meat. Try eating one meatless meal every week. “Beans, lentils, chickpeas, eggs, tofu and canned fish all have similar nutritional profiles to meat, but at a lower cost,” she says.
Meal Inspiration: Tuscan Bean and Pasta Toss served with raw vegetables and dip on the side.
Problem: Some weeknights are just too busy to find time to cook.
Solution: Ready-made help is your friend.
Lean on products that can give you a hand in the kitchen. “Rotisserie chicken and bagged salad can be excellent options when you are short on time or arrive home late,” says Hogger. “Other prepared items on offer [in store] such as pasta and grain salads, cooked vegetables, pre-cooked lasagna and other pastas, and pre-cooked meatloaf or fish. Many of these options can be part of a balanced meal.” Another great kitchen helper is a slow cooker. Since the ingredients are prepped ahead, you’re guaranteed a hot dinner without much effort. “They can also include a lot of vegetables, which are often lacking in our diets,” adds Hogger. Our pre-chopped vegetable mixes will save you even more time.
Meal Inspiration: Butter Chicken Pizza served with wild rice and red and yellow peppers.
Problem: I don’t have the ingredients I need to make dinner.
Solution: Keep your pantry and freezer stocked.
A look in your pantry or freezer may surprise you with the options you have to whip up a quick meal. “Meals do not have to be complicated to be healthy or balanced,” says Hogger. “For example, throwing together some black beans with chili-style diced tomatoes and serving that with cooked brown rice is a balanced meal yet very simple and comes entirely from pantry foods. Recipes aren’t always required!” Other back-up ingredients to have on hand include: frozen fruit and vegetables, canned tuna, canned beans, dry lentils, peanut or other butters, whole grain pasta, brown rice, canned tomato sauce/pasta sauce, salad dressings and olive oil.
Meal Inspiration: Hearty Beans and Italian Greens Soup with whole wheat crackers and yogourt with fruit for dessert.
Problem: I’m tired. I don’t want to step into the kitchen.
Solution: Make batch cooking a part of your weekend preparation.
We’ve all been there – a long, hard day and zero energy to conjure up a meal from scratch when you get home. But instead of reaching for a take-out menu, think about the money you can save with a little weekend batch cooking. Everything from sauces, soups, stews, casseroles, chili, lasagna, pot pies and meatloaf can be made in advance and freeze well. “Be sure to label the containers along with the date the foods were made so items that went into the freezer first can be used first,” says Hogger. “Batch cooking and freezing allows for home made meals throughout the week.”
Meal Inspiration: Tex-Mex Chicken and Corn Chowder served with salad made with a store-bought kit.
For more information on the correct serving sizes based on your age and gender consult Canada’s Food Guide.