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How to Eat Healthily (and Inexpensively) in 2013: The 365-Day-A-Year Meal Plan

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By Catherine McManus, Associate Director of Marketing Communications, Women & Co.

If you find yourself frantically scrolling through the "quick and easy" sections of your favorite cooking sites every afternoon trying to figure out how you're going to feed your family a healthy dinner -- that they'll actually eat -- you're not alone. Search volume on most recipe websites surges in late afternoon, as millions across the country try to figure out what to put on the dinner table each night.

Yes, we know you've already made a resolution to eat healthier in 2013, but let's set another goal -- stop wasting time and mental energy on the daily dinner dilemma. Planning out your family's menu for the week is one way to do it, but blogger Kelly Whalen, mom of 4, takes things a step further. She plans out her entire family's meals ONE YEAR IN ADVANCE.

Sound impossible? It's actually pretty simple. "I put together 4 weeks of meals and they will repeat over and over throughout the year with some minor tweaks," says Kelly, who blogs at The Centsible Life and joined Women & Co.'s #MomTalksMoney blogger chat last month. She replaces winter roasts, for example, with salads or burgers on the grill in the summer.

It may sound daunting, but Kelly's advice is actually pretty straightforward. She has an easy-to-use template, makes a list of all of the meals that her family enjoys, then adds them to the schedule. Once you have the calendar in front of you, you can also think ahead and plan for days with after-school and after-work activities when you know you won't have time to cook a meal from scratch. Another good sanity-saving tip: "Cereal or sandwiches count as dinner too," added Kelly. "If an ER visit or crazy after-school schedule keeps you from making dinner one night don't toss the whole plan out -- just serve some cereal or toasted peanut butter sandwiches for dinner, and start again tomorrow."

Having your meals planned out that far in advance can also help you save money on food, since you'll be able to buy the things you need in bulk, and store what you don't use for later.

While the yearly plan may be a bit ambitious for me, I'm going to follow Kelly's advice in 2013 and try to plan ahead to save myself the last-minute scramble to figure out dinner before I leave the office each day. What are your secrets to simplifying family dinner on the weeknights?

About the Author:
Catherine McManus leads public relations efforts for Women & Co.--her goal is to raise awareness for the site by leveraging insights from our content and partnerships to create news, build buzz, and activate social influencers as ambassadors for the Women & Co. brand. Prior to Women & Co., Catherine held various communications roles at The Parenting Group, publisher of Parenting magazine and Parenting.com, where she led the creation and execution of the group's national PR efforts and the development of various multi-media editorial partnerships. She began her career at Southard Communications, a PR firm in New York City specializing in consumer product publicity. Catherine is a native New Yorker, a graduate of Fordham University, and currently lives in Manhattan with her husband and their 2-year-old daughter.