Meal planning can be a time and money saver. If done right, it can also bring a degree of order to daily life. Many of my clients run from meal planning because it seems tedious and overwhelming, but I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be.
Here are 10 ways to make meal planning a breeze:
Write out your plan, using whatever method works best for you, whether that be a whiteboard, a note on your laptop, or going old-school with pen and paper. Most people plan out a week at a time but, others may choose to plan for a whole month or just a few days. The important thing is to find what works best for you, get the plan written out and keep your meal planning calendar relatively simple. In my experience, people often give up on meal planning when they use elaborate templates and systems.
2. Pick your easy day
As you are planning your meals, look at what you have scheduled for the week. Do you have a late meeting one day? That’s the day to pull out the crockpot. Does your child have swim practice on Wednesday? Make that the night for leftovers.
Remember meal planning doesn’t mean every meal must be homemade. Embrace a take-out or delivery night and research healthy options at the restaurant your family frequents.
3. Balance old and new recipes
A good rule of thumb is to plan for three to four staple meals and to try one or two new recipes each week. This keeps well-loved recipes in the rotation while still offering some variety to keep everyone from getting bored.
4. Find somewhere to store your favorite recipes
This is essential to keep life simple. It’s easy to lose a good recipe in the wilderness of Pinterest or as it gathers dust in your cookbook collection. As you try new recipes and find ones that are a hit with your family, be sure to add those recipes to your favorites stack.
5. Go with Theme Nights
Embrace themes for each night of the week. You’ve heard of Taco Tuesday, well throw in a Fish Monday, Pasta Wednesday, Crockpot Thursday, etc. You make even find that your kids are excited to help plan meals if you ask them what kind of tacos to make for the week!
Plan ahead in order to make your life easier. Make it your goal to be halfway done with the meal by dinnertime. That may mean you chop a few extra vegetables for dinner as you are cooking breakfast, or maybe it means you get the whole meal ready in a Ziploc bag at the beginning of the week. You have to find what kind of food prep is practical for your family, and then you have to make it a priority.
Healthy Food Prep Tips:
- Throw some chicken breasts in the crockpot. Shred the chicken and store it in the fridge to use as a healthy and easy protein source throughout the week.
- Chop up a variety of vegetables and roast. These can be used as a side, added to salads or a main dish for an extra dose of flavor and nutrients.
- Keep seasonings simple on these large batch prepped items. That will allow you to add them to a variety of recipes and change the flavor as needed.
How can your kids help you plan and prep for the week’s meals? What items can your spouse complete? Make meal planning and food prep a family affair. Use food prep as a time for quality conversations, lessons on measuring, or time to dance around the kitchen while listening to your child’s favorite songs.
8. Think about what you need to eat
When writing out your meal plan for the week be sure to consider what food you have that needs to be used up. Make meals out of the ground turkey buried in the bottom of your freezer or the chickpeas hiding in the dark corner of your pantry in order to save money and avoid food waste.
9. Master the shopping
After you’ve made your meal plan for the week, take the time to write out a clear shopping list. Write out the list by department and in the order you move around the grocery store, hitting the frozen section last. This will save you time and keep you from impulse buys while grocery shopping.
Healthy Grocery Shopping Tips:
- Don’t go shopping while hungry, this leads to unhealthy purchases you wouldn’t have made otherwise.
- Stick to the outskirts of the store as much as possible. That is where the whole foods live, while the center of the store holds most of the processed foods we are better off avoiding.
10. Plan for leftovers
Whether that means you make a double batch of chili and freeze half of it for later that month or pop the extra portions into Tupperware to use for lunches for the remainder of the week, planning ahead to have and use leftovers is a win-win. It uses your prep and cooking time wisely and allows you to stretch out a meal!