Planning is helpful to simplify meal preparation. Ps. 104:27-28 (HCSB) tells us, “All of them wait for You to give them their food at the right time. When You give it to them, they gather it; when You open Your hand they are satisfied with good things.” God provides us with so many wonderful foods, and each of them contains nutrients our body needs. Simple preparation is all that is needed to enjoy our food.

Protein is an essential nutrient and important to include in meals.  Choosing lean protein is a good place to start planning meals.  Skinned chicken breast and 93-96 percent lean ground beef are two versatile protein sources. Legumes including dried beans, peas and lentils are excellent plant-based proteins.  Creating multiple healthful meals from one protein source and planning for leftovers simplifies cooking and requires less time preparing daily meals.

Slow cookers are perfect in hot weather to cook the protein without heating the kitchen. One idea is to cook several pounds of skinned chicken breasts in water in a slow cooker to use for multiple meals.

Add garlic, onion and carrots for flavor. Make chicken parmesan by heating a low sodium marinara or spaghetti sauce and spooning over hot chicken breasts. Top with part skim grated mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of parmesan. Serve over whole grain pasta.

Most people don’t eat enough whole grains. Choosing whole grain pasta instead of refined provides a serving of whole grain. Complement with a large salad including a variety of fruits and vegetables. Prepackaged mixed salad greens are a time saver. Strawberries, blueberries, orange segments and purple grapes are great additions. In general, fruits and vegetables contain vitamins A, C and E, folate, potassium, dietary fiber, carbohydrate and multiple phytonutrients.

Refrigerate remaining chicken to be served in a day or two. Shred, dice or slice chicken and freeze in portion sizes to make future meals.

Other ideas to serve chicken:

• Chicken with brown rice pilaf—double the rice needed and use leftovers for chicken and rice stir-fry including vegetables like broccoli, carrots and celery

• Shredded chicken wraps using whole wheat wraps and dark green lettuce, tomatoes, purple onion and various colors of bell pepper strips

• Chicken salad

• Tacos

• Main dish salad with chicken

Cook several pounds of 93-96 percent lean ground beef in a large pot. Cover with water and simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is well done. Allow to cool slightly. Divide into portion sizes to prepare one family meal.  Refrigerate what will be used in a day or two and freeze for later use. You get the idea. It takes a little planning but really simplifies daily meal preparation.

Ideas to serve beef:

• Mini pizzas using whole grain pita bread or wraps for the crust

• Taco salad

• Sloppy joes

• Spaghetti

• Refrigerate stock from cooking the beef and use to make vegetable beef soup. Skim and discard any hardened fat that surfaces.

Ideas to serve legumes:

• Split pea soup

• Garbanzo beans to make hummus

• Red kidney beans in a three bean salad

• Lentil soup

• Black bean and corn salad

Fresh watermelon wedges, cantaloupe slices or chilled fruit soup makes a refreshing dessert.