14 Predictions For The Future Of Smart Home Technology

Successful CIOs, CTOs & executives from Forbes Technology Council offer firsthand insights on smart home technology & business.

A decade ago, the idea of controlling your home’s thermostat, lights and security systems remotely via smartphone would have seemed like futuristic science fiction. But 2017 proved to be the year of the smart home. Technology in this market continues to grow leaps and bounds, and Zion Market Research predicts it will reach $53.45 billion by 2022.

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2018 holds even more promise for the smart home industry, as devices like Google Home, Alexa and Amazon Echo become more commonplace and artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated. We asked 14 members of Forbes Technology Council what they think consumers can expect in the coming year.

1. The Next Security And Privacy Crisis

We have shared our digital footprint for convenience. With smart home technology, we are sharing our physical footprint. It is not a matter of if but when these systems will be compromised, and the consequences could be much more severe than lost social security numbers. Addressing security and privacy will become a fundamental concern that will shape this industry. – Dimitri StiliadisAporeto

2. Integration Of Smart Home Devices

Integration will make or break smart home technology. Navigating goofy AI misunderstandings for 12 appliances and the front door is not the way of the future. But can smart homes make sure you remembered to turn off all the lights? Lock up? De-activate alarms upon recognizing your face? I believe we will see more integration that supports homeowners in 2018. – Arnie Gordon, Arlyn Scales

3. A Greater Role For Artificial Intelligence

I’m wrapping up repairs and renovations on an investment property, and we opted to install a bunch of Nest and Ring products to better secure our investment. The video surveillance is great, but I can see AI being used to automate threat detection and maybe more proactively alert us if something goes awry. This would revolutionize the human aspect of remote video monitoring. – Tim MaliyilAlertBoot

4. A Focus On Surveillance And Appliances

Homeowners will like the idea of more cool ways to control their homes. Surveillance has become more necessary to combat crime, as more people work from home and want to protect their physical and intellectual property. Appliances also could be a focus since people would like their appliances to take on more of the workload. – Chalmers BrownDue

5. New Smart Home Use Cases

In 2017, the majority of applications revolved around security and thermostats, and the devices did not interoperate. In 2018, smart home device makers will take a platform approach, and the devices will interoperate and new use cases will emerge such as appliance diagnostics, energy conservation and the prevention of major damages during natural disasters. – Naresh SoniTsunami ARVR

6. Homeowner Data Sharing

Sharing the data of homeowners with businesses will probably be the next big thing in smart home technology. Having your fridge order the food you need or setting the lights and preferred temperature for your arrival is what is coming soon. The data that you share with the smart devices will be of great interest to the companies that build such products. – Ivailo NikolovSiteGround

7. Increased Efficiency, Control And Customization

AI is set to disrupt the home. Technology will become much more efficient, and we will be able to control everything from appliances to radio volume to security from one central place. As a matter of fact, as AI develops, we eventually won’t need to manually control anything, as these devices will automatically adjust to our preferences. – Arthur PerelessPereless Systems

8. Customer Service As A Differentiator

With more and more smart home devices entering the market, there is an opportunity for forward-thinking companies to use customer service as a differentiator. An IoT environment can present a number of challenges for consumers ranging from basic troubleshooting to privacy concerns. Companies that are innovative and knowledgeable about delivering customer service excellence will stand out. – Michael RingmanTELUS International

9. More Security Concerns

We’ll see a proliferation of integrated platform solutions from big players in tech. Amazon will offer in-home food delivery straight to your fridge, leveraging its smart home platform. However, security will be a concern; a customer’s home could be robbed by a contractor. I also see a future where passwords are leaked or homes get hacked, and that’s something the big players need to plan for. – Neha SampatBuilt.io

10. Higher Cross-Compatibility Standards

I’m hoping for some real progress on standards. The smart home market has huge potential, but it’s still too fragmented. Consumers shouldn’t have to think about whether they want to invest in Nest, Amazon’s Echo line or products that support Apple’s Homekit. In 2018, I expect to see greater cross-compatibility and less focus on platform lock-in. – Vik PatelNexcess

11. Smart Kitchen Gadgets

I think we’re going to see more and more smart kitchen gadgets come on the market, such as rice cookers that are connected to Alexa, smart crockpots and integrated apps. We’ll be able to ask Alexa how much time is left on the device or control them from our smartphones at work. – Thomas GriffinOptinMonster

12. Smart Spaces Outside Of The Home 

Naturally, smart home tech will continue to become more accessible and inexpensive to the mainstream. As consumers become accustomed to the conveniences that come with smart tech, they will begin to seek out these efficiencies outside of the home. Next year, we’re likely to see an uptick in commercial smart building tech, particularly in offices seeking to adapt to more mobile workplace trends. – Arie BarendrechtWiredScore

13. The Replacement Of ‘Test Phase’ Products With Better Alternatives

As more technology and innovations are brought to the market, automation will make the home experience simpler and more pleasant. Next year will see an increase in the gadgets released in the IoT sphere. However, as this technology is relatively new, the testing phase will see the cleaning out of multiple products that are replaced by better alternatives. – Alexandro PandoXyrupt

14. Increased Voice Control Integration

Home technologies will integrate into so much more of our daily lives. Voice control of technologies that are included in your phone, TV, home audio and even car dashboard will be commonplace by the end of 2018. Voice is going to be the breakthrough advancement that really allows these technologies to become ubiquitous. – Tyler ShieldsSignal Sciences

Hack your coffee maker to start brewing the moment you wake up

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Coffee makers like the Keurig have had the ability to power on and begin heating the water on a set schedule for years now. It’s incredibly convenient to wake up to hot water, pop in a pod, push a button and have hot, brewed coffee in a minute or less.

But what if could have your coffee made each morning without pushing a button? And what if you don’t wake up at the same time every day?

Learn how you can have your morning cup brewed, automatically, only after you get out of bed every morning.

What you’ll need

The downside to making coffee automatically every morning is that it doesn’t come cheap. In total, the smart devices will cost you between $200 and $350.

  • A Fitbit, Jawbone Up or another fitness tracker which tracks sleep and integrates with IFTTT. (All current Jawbone Up trackers track sleep, while the only currently available Fitbit that does not track sleep is the Zip.) These trackers range from $100 to $250.
  • A Mr. Coffee Smart Optimal Brew, which is WeMo-enabled and integrates with IFTTT. The Mr. Coffee Smart Optimal Brew retails for $150, but can currently be found online for around $111.
  • An IFTTT account with active channels for your fitness tracker and the coffee maker.

To activate the channels, create or log in to your account at ifttt.com. Click “Channels” in the upper-right corner of the site. Type the brand of fitness tracker in the search bar, click the corresponding icon in the results, click Connect and authenticate the connection. Repeat these steps for the WeMo Coffeemaker channel.

How to automatically brew coffee after you wake up

Once you have the proper devices and the IFTTT channels activated, setting up the recipe should only take a minute or so.

IFTTT Recipe: Wake up to freshly brewed coffee connects fitbit to wemo-coffeemaker

  • Start by navigating to ifttt.com in your browser. To create a new recipe, click on your username in the top-left corner and select “Create.”
  • Click “This” and search for the corresponding channel for your fitness tracker. For this example, I am using Fitbit.
  • For the Trigger, choose “New sleep logged” then click “Create Trigger.” (Not every sleep tracker has a trigger for sleep logged. If this is the case for your tracker, select “Sleep duration above” and enter a sleep duration that’s higher than any nap you may take, but not longer than a solid night’s rest — roughly between 4 and 6 hours.)
  • For Action Channel, search for “coffee” and select the WeMo Coffeemaker channel.
  • For the Action, choose “Brew coffee” and select your coffee maker in the dropdown menu.
  • Click “Create Action,” then click “Create Recipe.”

Now when your tracker syncs with your phone in the morning, your coffee maker will turn on and begin to brew coffee, but only after you’ve woken up. Just don’t forget to put water and coffee in the coffee maker before going to bed.

How many household chores can you automate right now?

by   @david_p_priest  April 20, 2017 

Ever since the first washing machine was invented over two centuries ago, we’ve been trying to get out of doing our chores. And now, thanks to lazy people-turned-tech-developers, we’re halfway there. Robot vacuums roam thousands of homes, and it seems like you’ll be able to avoid almost all your chores in a few years.

But it’s 2017, and the question is, how many chores can you automate right now? Here’s the breakdown.

Vacuuming

Robot vacuums have come into their own in the past few years. Sure, they’re pricier than their hand-pushed brethren, but some, like the Neato Botvac Connected Robot Vacuum, perform competitively with the best conventional vacuums on the market.

Here’s the one problem: robot vacuums — even smart ones that map house layouts effectively — still suffer from limited mobility. They can’t traverse stairs, they won’t snag crumbs your kid left on the couch, and they will occasionally get stuck or miss spots.

Can you automate vacuuming? Yes… ish. But you might need a hand vac to finish the stairs and furniture.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

 

Mowing the lawn

The chore I hated most as a kid was mowing the lawn. Okay, to be honest I still hate it the most. But push and riding mowers might soon be a thing of the past. Last year, one CNET editor triedout the Robomow RS612 — think: Roomba for your lawn — and actually liked it. The robot lawnmower kept the lawn tidy over time, and it was a relatively hands-off experience.

Robomow wasn’t perfect, though. First, its efforts were thwarted by rain and wet grass. Second, yards with steep grades or large acreage are off the table for the robot mower. Plus, its going rate is $1,600 (about £1,250 or AU$2,134 — a lot more than push mowers, and even some riding mowers.

Can you automate mowing the lawn? Surprisingly, yes. It even works pretty well.

Amazon

Dishes and laundry

Dishwashers and washing machines are pretty standard fare these days, whether you live in a house or an apartment. Some of these large appliances are adding extra smarts — such as self-ordering detergent podsusing Amazon Dash, and allowing users to check cycle statuses by asking Alexa.

Of course, we still haven’t seen a robot that can fold your laundry (well, not one available for purchase) or put up the clean dishes, so you’ll still have some work to do.

Can you automate dishwashing and laundry? Sure. But the process hasn’t changed much in 50 years.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

Feeding the family

Whether you’re making dinner for yourself or cooking for the whole family, this chore can take up tons of time everyday. But some cooking devices are trying to help make it a more painless process. For anyone who wants their meal to cook itself while they catch up on “Bob’s Burgers,” sous vide immersion cookers and slow cookers might be your solutions. Both small appliancesare relatively hands-free after you finish the preparations — but you’ll have to plan ahead.

If you like cooking, but you hate burning your pancakes — oh, and have $650 to blow — the Hestan Cue also adds automation to cooking. The smart pan-and-induction-cooktop walk you step-by-step through recipes, adjusting the temperature for you, and telling you when to flip the flapjacks via the app. It’s a cool device, albeit imperfect and expensive.

Can you automate cooking dinner? To a degree. Smart cookware seems more like a sous chef than a personal chef. 

Feeding the pets

I know, I know: pets are part of the family. But feeding them is different, which means automating that process is different.

The good news is, smart dog and cat bowls are finally becoming available. The bad news is, they don’t work so well yet. When CNET tested the Petnet SmartFeeder, the device worked well for the most part — holding a few pounds of food, and doling it out on a schedule. Problem was, it clogged a couple times, delivering none or only part of the meal. And when it comes to feeding your pets, even a single missed meal can feel like a pretty big deal.

Can you automate feeding your pets? Sort of. But you won’t want to trust your smart bowl thatmuch.

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iRobot

Cleaning the gutters

Teetering on a ladder for hours to clean out your clogged gutters is annoying and can be dangerous. The iRobot Looj 330 claims to solve that problem, trolling your gutters and clearing out dead leaves and debris with its auger.

While CNET hasn’t tested the Looj, users seem to have mixed feelings about it. Some report that the Looj has trouble with dense detritus, but others say it takes care of small clogs without much problem.

Can you automate cleaning the gutters? Yes. Although how effective the Looj is likely depends on your particular property.

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Winbot

Cleaning the windows

Spring cleaning gets intense when you start working on the windows — especially if you have vaulted ceilings.

The good news is a device built exactly to clean windows is on the market. The Winbot attaches to windows like a vertically-inclined robot vacuum, and cleans them using two cleaning pads and a squeegee.

The problem? According to many users, the Winbot leaves streaks. Plus, you have to move the device from window to window, so depending on your house’s layout, the Winbot could actually add work. But it’s an interesting concept, especially for home owners with larger windows.

Can you automate cleaning the windows? Sure. But you can’t automate carrying around the Winbot.

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Rachio

Watering the lawn

If you’re serious about lawn care, you may already have an automated irrigation system with timed sprinklers. But a growing contingent of retrofit devices adds more smarts and convenience to these systems. Devices like the Sprinkl Conserve and Blossom Smart Watering Controller will cancel watering schedules if it rains, and lets users control their sprinklers with an app. The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller even adds voice control through the Amazon Echo.

The down side of these devices is they require an existing irrigation system. A few alternative options do exist, like the Edyn water valve, a hose-fed device.

Can you automate watering the lawn? Yes.

Can you automate your chores?

Technology has done a surprisingly good job of automating chores, but as you can see with most of these, none of the solutions are perfect. Whether that automation actually adds work, or just takes a little oversight depends on the chore. But in 10 years, maybe all the chore-bots will be as standard — and as dependable — as a washing machine.

Promote healthier eating by meal planning

By MARY ANN LIENHART-CROSS Columnist

As I have been presenting programs and participated in meetings I have been a part of conversations asking, “What are you making for dinner?” This often leads to a variety of conversations and comments. This question provides me with the opportunity to talk about meal planning and all of the benefits. Benefits to meal planning are you can eat healthier, you might not over eat as much and your money goes further.

You can eat healthier and be wealthier by being wise about planning meals and shopping with a plan. The process begins by choosing a positive attitude about meal planning. Communication on the subject is important for making meal planning work for your family. Once you have talked about the changes that are going to be made it is time to plan menus. Many of you plan your meals around meat, and leave vegetables, fruit, grains and dairy food groups as after thoughts.

According to MyPlate, a governement website promoting healthy eating, the bulk of your meal should be made up of vegetables, fruits and whole grains such as whole wheat bread and pasta, grains like oatmeal and rice. For more information on the healthy eating, make sure to visit www.choosemyplate.gov. At this website there are computer tools that can help you make detailed meal plans based on your age, gender, weight and activity level.

Meats and dairy foods, should be treated more like side dishes where smaller amounts are eaten. The plus to this is that this is healthier and the bonus is that it makes your money go further. Some easy examples are stir-fry vegetables with lean meat served with brown or whole grain rice, or how about chili with lots of tomatoes, beans and some lean ground meat served with a salad and cornbread.

When it comes to menu planning and shopping, you need to have discipline and a game plan. Your game plan should include what you’re going to buy and where you’re going to shop. This will work best if you plan meals and snacks for a week, then write out your shopping list and stick to it. As you develop your menus, look at the store ads and design ways to incorporate these sale items into your menus. Food dollars will usually go further when you shop grocery stores, discount food stores, and bulk food stores. The food dollars won’t go very far if you shop at convenience stores.

You need to have a plan when you are in the store. If you are wandering down each aisle of the store without a plan of action, you will for sure spend more than you planned. Research has shown that you are likely to spend more money the longer you are in the store. So, using a list can save you time and money.

To help you and your family with your meal planning, we have placed a handy meal planning form on our office web site. The front side has the seven days across the top and then there the meals and snacks along the side. The back side has helpful tips. The website is www.extension.purdue.edu/elkhart. Once you are there click on the word “food” and choose meal planning. You can print off the form and begin to put your plan in writing. If you prefer to use technology, there are several meal planning apps available; most are free of charge or have a minimal purchase price. Whichever method you prefer, have a plan and make it work for you.

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross is a Purdue Extension educator in Elkhart County. She can be reached at 574-533-0554 or at lienhart@purdue.edu.

What to Look for in Your Meal-Planning Service

You’ve seen them advertised. Your friends have tried them. Are you ready to have planned meal kits delivered to your door?

It’s wise to do your homework first, says wellness dietitian Beth Bluestone, RD, LD. Here, she answers four questions about the services:

1. Are meal-planning services worthwhile?

If you’ve been relying on fast food or takeout, a service like this can get you back in the kitchen and cooking again. That’s huge! It can be fun to work together on a meal with your kids or your spouse. These services also exposed you to different types of food and unique ingredients.

Most services provide all the ingredients you need for a recipe, along with a recipe card. Typically, the food is delivered fresh and on ice. Ingredients are all pre-measured and weighed. So, for example, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of barbecue spice, or three cloves of garlic, you get that exact amount.

Some services offer frozen meals that you heat up in your oven or microwave. But I prefer those that involve cooking.

2. Are the meals nutritious?

Most services offer well-rounded meals — far more nutritious than eating fast food or cereal for dinner! They provide a good source of protein. Many offer hormone- and antibiotic-free meat and dairy. Some offer whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and whole wheat noodles.

The serving of vegetables that comes with each meal is one of the biggest nutritional benefits. A recent CDC report found that fewer than 14 percent of Americans eat enough vegetables, and fewer than 18 percent eat enough fruit, every day.

It’s best to look for a company that offers lean sources of protein (like white-meat chicken and fish), legumes, whole grains and lots of veggies (the more colorful, the better — and organic is a plus).

3. Are there any red flags to watch for?

Yes. Just because you’re eating fresh, organic and hormone-free ingredients doesn’t mean meal-planning services will help you manage weight or eat a balanced diet.

Some recipes can be high in calories or carbohydrates (especially refined carbs, which quickly turn into sugar during digestion).  Meals may be high in sodium or in saturated fat. For example, some recipes or kits provide more butter or oil than you actually need.

Portions can also be too big.  A meal for two may actually provide three to four servings. Luckily, many companies provide a nutritional facts label for meals and ingredients.

4. Do services take kids and dietary restrictions into account?

Some companies offer two different size kits: one for two people and one for a family. And, if you’re on a gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan diet, some companies may accommodate your needs better than others.

Try to review recipes and nutrition information before selecting a company, although not all companies list this information online.

To find out more what you’re getting into, speak with a customer service representative before signing up or placing your order.  It may also be wise to ask in advance about the cancellation policy.

The Smart Kitchen: The Next Big Hope for the Internet of Things

By Jennifer Tuohy

The Internet of Things is a boon for businesses striving to be more sustainable, but at-home IOT is exhibiting worrying signs of stalling. Industry analyst Jan Dawson summed up many people’s concerns when he said the smart home market seems perennially stuck in the early-adopter phase.

He noted some exceptions, and most of them (such as the Nest Learning Thermostat) carry a clear promise of return on a user’s investment. Here, Dawson pinpoints a major issue with the smart home — marketing.

The smart home is being marketed at homeowners as the home of the future, packed with cool gadgets and neighbor-wowing conveniences. While this is true, it’s clearly not convincing anyone other than early adopters to cough up their hard-earned cash. People see connected gadgets as a luxury, because that’s how they’re being sold.

In reality, many facets of the smart home are a necessity for both consumers and the environment, because they save money, largely through reducing energy use and waste. Manufacturers need to start pushing this promise over the lifestyle one.

Why do we need a smart home?

“The key drivers in smart home adoption are home security, energy efficiency, entertainment, convenience/productivity, connectivity and health monitoring,” wroteglobal retail analyst Deborah Weinswig. This is born out in the success of Nest. Over 3 million people bought the Nest because they were offered a clear ROI on their purchase—not just because they could adjust the temperature of their home remotely. The device promised to use its smarts to reduce energy use, save money and pay for itself within two years.

Here is where the real value of the smart home lies for the consumer. It gives you information about your home and ultimate control over your home through applications, then runs it for you according to your parameters, thereby reducing waste and saving you time and money.

What is the largest producer of waste and second largest user of energy in the home? The kitchen. I’ve written before about why I believe the smart kitchen is the next big thing for the smart home, the residential arm of IOT. If manufacturers can figure out a way to make smart products in the kitchen that reduce waste and energy use and increase convenience, then we will have a win for the planet, the consumer and business.

Can a sentient smart kitchen reduce waste?

“The smart kitchen segment of the household appliance market holds enormous potential, as the kitchen is one area of the house that often has more devices than any other. Also, many people wish to cut down time spent cooking and preparing food, which is why they buy all those devices in the first place,” Weinswig wrote in The Connected Home Series published by the Fung Business Intelligence Center.

The truly smart kitchen is still some ways off, in part because with so many disparate manufacturers in the space, interoperability will be a problem. Currently, Samsung is leading the way with its interconnected products as well as its acquisition of Smart Things, a popular consumer smart home hub. However, a device that comes along and connects all the elements of the kitchen would be a huge success.

Amazon’s Echo has given us a taste of this. The device has become an integral part of smart (and many non-smart) kitchens. It provides a hands-free way to set timers, find out how many cups are in a gallon and activate connected devices with just a spoken sentence. The Echo is already an indicator that there is a need for a unifying device in the kitchen.

With its advanced AI capabilities, Google Home, coming later this year, looks set to bring much to the kitchen that Echo is lacking and could provide that missing linchpin.

Communication is key

If appliance manufacturers aren’t going to play nicely with each other, hopefully they will all play nicely with an AI device. The smart kitchen won’t flourish until all its disparate parts—the pantry, the fridge, the oven, the microwave—can communicate with each other.

When the refrigerator and the pantry knows what’s inside (courtesy of cameras and RFID tags, not by the user inputting its contents through an app), and can communicate that to an AI device that is aware of the local weather, knows the dietary restrictions of the household and has access to recipes, it can serve up dinner ideas from the food already on hand.

In fact, a smart bot that can do all this is already in development. The Mozilla Foundation is working on a smart kitchen bot that will help you decide what to make for dinner. The project, part of the Mozilla connected devices project, launched in June 2016 and could ultimately do all of the above and much more.

The larger goal of the project is to help reduce food waste by helping families better plan meals. According to the project’s Wiki, “By building the SmartKitchen service that provides meal options based on existing food inventory, we will provide more options for meals and therefore make it easier for people to have more family dinners.”

This type of AI help families plan their meals and prepare healthier school lunches, and it alerts them when they’re low on an ingredient or when a product is about to expire. It also monitors food consumption, so that over time it can help determine healthy eater patterns. This will allow families to effortlessly reduce food waste, eat healthier and manage their food budgets more efficiently.

How can we sell the smart kitchen?

What’s missing right now? A fridge to work with this technology. There are plenty of weird and wonderful connected gadgets for the kitchen – an egg minder that tells you when your eggs are going to expire and how many you have was a hugely popular product, illustrating a demand for this type of functionality. But as of today, the fridge of the future hasn’t arrived. Samsung’s new Family Hub is a big step in the right direction, and with a few iterations and a few significant price drops, we will be close to perfecting the connected kitchen appliance.

But when the industry gets there, let’s not try and wow the consumer with the appeal of touch screen tablets built into the door. Instead, let’s focus on invisible connected tech that communicates with the kitchen as a whole. This will bring us to a place where, by purchasing a $3,000 refrigerator, families could realistically expect their grocery bills to be reduced by 30 percent.

If Nest can sell millions of smart thermostats based on the fact that it can save you $250 over two years, imagine what the prospect of savings of $2,300 to $4,500* a year could do for sale of the smart kitchen.

* Based on a savings of 30 percent annually of the average family of four’s spending of $146-$289 per week on groceries.

Family Meal Planning 101. Great tips that will help your family save time, money, and eat healthy.

Source: Fix.com Blog  By: Abby Quillen

Wandering the grocery store aimlessly can cost you. Consumers spend 40 percent more on impulse purchases when they shop without a list, according to Kansas State Extension Service.1 And far too much of that food is probably wasted. The average American family throws out 25 percent of the food they purchase. For a family of four, that means tossing somewhere between $1,365 and $2,275 every year.2

There’s a solution: meal planning! By planning meals, a family can cut their grocery bill by hundreds of dollars a month and nearly eliminate food waste. Planning meals has other benefits too, including:

  • Happier Cooking: Meal planning helps eliminate the frustration of staring into an empty refrigerator or racing down shopping aisles at the end of a long day. And you will probably have much more energy and enthusiasm for cooking.
  • Healthier Diet: Planning ahead makes cooking healthy dinners from scratch much easier. Things you may have never done before – soaking and cooking dried beans, making bread or pizza dough, or simmering soup in a slow cooker – aren’t that hard when you plan in advance.
  • More Domestic Harmony: Most families don’t share the same tastes. Some family members may like the same predictable meals week after week; others prefer to mix it up. One person may love pot roast while a child may prefer plain noodles. Planning meals as a family lets everyone have a say in the decision-making. Studies suggest kids who help cook meals are better eaters.3 Getting them involved with the planning process may further diminish mealtime battles.4
  • More Eating In: Meal planning helps reduce impromptu trips to restaurants and fast food spots, where families spend more money and eat more calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium than they do when preparing food at home.56 Families can save dining out for special occasions, rather than tack it on the end of a frenzied day.
  • More Family Dinners: Perhaps most importantly, planning meals encourages families to eat together around the dinner table, a ritual shown to keep families healthier and happier.7
Family Meal Benefits

Meal Planning Made Simple

If you’re new to menu planning, start by planning one week of meals on a day when everyone’s home and you have time to go shopping. Later, you may want to transition to monthly planning to better take advantage of buying in bulk.8 For the first few meal plans, it’s usually easiest to use pen and paper. Later, you can explore fancier ways to plan if desired.

Gather a few things before you get started:

  • A pen
  • Two blank sheets of paper
  • The weekly sale flyer from the grocery store (usually available in the Sunday newspaper or online)
  • Coupons (if you clip them)
  • Favorite cookbooks or recipes
  • List of vegetables ripe in the home garden or abundant at the farmers’ market (optional)

Limit the Options

When staring at a blank piece of paper and a pile of cookbooks, the options seem endless, and that’s not a good thing. Research suggests people have trouble taking action when there are too many choices.9 To make picking meals easier and to narrow down options, try one or more of these tactics:

1. Different Days for Different Types of Meals

This method is popular, because it reduces options while leaving room for variety. Here’s an example:

  • Monday: Soup
  • Tuesday: Baked potatoes with toppings
  • Wednesday: Pasta
  • Thursday: Pizza and salad
  • Friday: Beans and rice
  • Saturday: Mexican
  • Sunday: Stir fry

This format provides a helpful guideline for planning without stifling creativity. You can swap categories or ditch the whole thing when desired.

2. 20 Core Meals

As a family, brainstorm 20 meals you eat often and everyone enjoys. These will be the core meals that usually populate your meal plan. Choose one or two nights a week, perhaps weekends, to experiment with new recipes. Add any favorite new recipes to your list of core meals.

3. Consecutive Meals with the Same Ingredient

Brainstorm ways to use one ingredient for several meals. This method saves cooking time and helps cut food waste. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Use One Ingredient For Several Meals

4. Two Meals in One

Save money and time by planning dinners that double as lunches for school, the office, or at home the next day. This practice works especially well with beans, burritos, soup, and other foods that freeze well.

5. Meals from Sales or Seasonal Offerings

Study the supermarket ads to see what’s on sale, or find out what’s fresh at the farmers’ market, then incorporate those foods into the menu. Google is an ally for discovering recipes combining a handful of ingredients. Just type in the ingredients followed by “recipe,” and see what comes up. Using sales flyers or seasonal offerings helps limit the paralysis of too many options, saves money, and encourages sourcing food locally.

Eat Colorful Foods For More Nutrients

Plan the Week’s Meals

Once you’ve decided on a method to make meal planning easier, it’s time to plan the specific meals for the coming week. Here’s the simplest way to do it with pen and paper:

  • Make a grid with columns for the days of the week and enough rows for the meals you need to plan for – breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • Fill in the first meal. Note where you found the recipe, so you don’t have to search through cookbooks or hunt the Internet for it when it’s time to cook.
  • On the other blank piece of paper, list the ingredients you need from the store for the meal, leaving off what’s already in the fridge or pantry. This is your grocery list. Divide this list by where things are located in the store if it makes shopping easier.
  • Repeat until you’ve planned every meal.
  • Post the menu on the bulletin board, on the refrigerator, or in a common area, so everyone knows what’s for dinner.
  • Take the list and go shopping.
Learn Proper Portion Sizes

Advanced Meal Planning

Once you get the hang of meal planning, you may want to investigate more efficient ways to do it. Here are a few methods that may work well for tech-savvy people:

  • Make an Excel spreadsheet for meal planning. Download a free template or design your own.10
  • Use Evernote (a free organization program) to keep track of menus and recipes.11
  • Join Pinterest to store recipes and menu planning ideas.
  • Purchase web-based software or an app specifically designed for menu planning. Many companies offer a free trial.12

Mealtime is powerful. Family therapist Anne Fishel writes that she often wants to tell families to go home and eat dinner together rather than spend an hour with her.13 Cooking at home and gathering around the table with family or friends provides countless benefits, and it doesn’t have to be stressful. With a good meal-planning system, it may even become everyone’s favorite part of the day.

Planning is key for healthier eating

by Becky Wright

You’ve probably heard this old saying countless times: if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. Yet when it comes to eating healthy and trying to drop some excess pounds, nothing could be more true. Preparation really is everything.

It’s no surprise that among the numerous people I’ve worked with over the years, the ones who have the most success and who hit their goals and sustain their weight loss long term are also the ones who put the effort into planning their nutrition properly.

I know what you’re thinking, that meal planning and prepping all sounds a bit tedious and time-consuming and you don’t have a clue where to start, right?

You don’t have to spend your whole weekend looking for obscure foods in the grocery store or slaving away in the kitchen.

Follow my simple strategies for meal preparation success, and you’ll not only save lots of time, but you’ll stay consistent with your diet and see the progress and results you’re after, too.

Make a weekly menu

Just like you schedule things in your diary for the week ahead, do the same with your food. Take a little time one day a week — my preferred day is a Sunday — to figure out all your meals for the next seven days and write them down.

This not only helps you to stay on top of your nutrition and ensures your meals are in alignment with your goals, but it will also sway you from making less than healthy spur-of-the-moment decisions, such as at the end of a long day when you are unsure of what to eat and are not motivated to cook.

I also like to post my weekly meal plan somewhere visible, such as on my refrigerator door, so I can clearly see what I should be eating and when.

Set aside two or three hours to prep and cook

As well as taking a little time to plan your weekly menu, I recommend blocking out a couple of hours to cook up your meals for the week.

Vegetables can all be washed, chopped and put into air-tight food bags ready for when you need them. Chicken breasts and other cuts of meat can be pre-cooked and stored in air-tight containers in the fridge for two or three days.

A large portion of rice or quinoa can be cooked in one go and split into enough portions for the week.

Dry oats and breakfast cereals can be weighed out and pre-portioned into mason jars or Tupperware containers.

Chopped fruit can also be portioned out, put into air-tight bags and stashed in the freezer. These are then easy to grab and chuck in a blender for when you make a smoothie or shake.

Snacks can be prepared in advance, too, such as weighing out individual portion sizes of nuts and seeds, or making a batch of protein balls.

If you’re not a gourmet chef like me — trust me, really, I’m not — and dread the idea of cooking for a couple of hours, try putting on your favourite podcast or listening to some music and dancing your way around the kitchen as you prep. I guarantee the time will soon fly by.

Prepare dishes in batches

One of the best time-saving and convenient things you can do is to prepare one or two “big pot dishes” that can be portioned into individual sizes and either stored in the refrigerator or frozen.

These can then quickly and easily be re-heated as and when you need them. Healthy curries, stews and dishes such as turkey chilli are perfect for making in big batches and freezing.

Invest in some Tupperware

It goes without saying, but you’re going to need some storage containers to accommodate all the good food you’ve been busy prepping.

I like to use containers that perfectly fit a single portion size, this way I know I’m getting the quantities right and I won’t be tempted to over-indulge.

Invest in some kitchen scales

While I don’t think it’s necessary to precisely weigh every last morsel of food all the time, one of the biggest mistakes I see people make is inaccurately guessing portion sizes.

It’s easily done, so take out the guesswork and use some scales to learn what correct portion sizes really look like.

No matter how good you are at sticking to eating the right foods, if you’re eating them in the wrong quantities for your energy requirements, yor progress will stall and you likely won’t see the results you want.

So, when you first start meal prepping, weigh foods to re-train your eyes to recognise correct portion sizes. Do this consistently for a while and, over time, you’ll intuitively know what the right amount looks like.

Meal planning and preparation can take a little time to get used to, but really are worth it if you are serious about overhauling your nutrition and trying to lose some weight. My advice, as always, is to persevere.

However, if you’re still struggling with your fitness and weight-loss goals and need an exercise and nutrition plan that will get you back on track, why not join my next 21-Day Kick Start? Log on to www.beckywrightfitness.com to sign up and get more details.

Becky Wright is a qualified personal trainer, nutritional therapist and international bikini fitness champion. She has worked with clients worldwide, including royalty. Contact her at www.beckywrightfitness.com or becky@beckywrightfitness.com