When deciding what foods should be part of your family's meal planning, it is important to strategize and plan when you have time to focus. If you are already trying to prepare dinner for Monday night and it's 7:00 pm and everyone is hungry, you are more likely to make quick decisions that may not benefit your family's health. However, if you make healthfulness and sustainability a priority beforehand, you can go a long way to helping your family appreciate the joys of eating well and ethically at the same time.    

Eating locally grown produce is a great step toward improving your family's health. It is also a method to support small farmers in your area and avoid goods that have been picked long before their ripening dates so they could be shipped across the country or around the world. One only needs to eat an out-of-season store-bought tomato to know that there is something to be said for eating with the seasons and the climate.

Some people prefer locally-sourced animal products because you can often visit the farms and see that the animals are being treated humanely and are not living in squalor. Shopping for sustainably-sourced foods can be easier or more difficult depending on your location. Warmer states have longer growing seasons, so you can often find year-round farmer's markets and produce stands selling locally grown fruits and vegetables. However, if you live in colder climates you are likely to only find local produce available in summer and fall.    

One solution to this dilemma is to prepare food for long-term storage through freezing or making preserves. For vegetables, you can purchase larger quantities of food then blanch and freeze them by steaming the vegetable very briefly until the vegetable has become a rich color (for example, green beans or kale become a darker green) then immediately dunking them in ice water to end the cooking process quickly. These quick and easy frozen vegetables can be stored for months and used when convenient. For fruits, many families enjoy picking ripe berries at local farms and then creating jams and jellies to enjoy later in the year.    

Even if your area does not have an organized farmer's market, you likely have nearby fruit orchards, farmers, or sources of local honey (often touted as a good antidote for allergies). Websites such as www.localharvest.org can help you find which options exist in your area, from wild hog sausage, bacon, milk, steaks, cheese, or eggs to any variety of vegetables and fruits. Often these will include regional varieties that are more interesting than the common items found at area grocery stores.