Meal Planning 101
Meal planning is really about time management, healthy eating, being money smart, being prepared, and making all this process as low stress as possible.
Planning a weekly menu doesn’t have to be difficult and can help you to prepare healthy meals. To create a plan, you should first have a clear understanding of your family’s calendar and lifestyle. Busy families with many activities will need a different plan than a someone living alone. Make sure to build flexibility into your menu if you have a family that is more spontaneous. Here are just a few benefits that meal planning can give you:
- It helps you and your family to feel more organized.
- It’s good for you and your family’s health – cuts back those snack/fast food temptations
- Spend less money at the grocery store since you are not impulse buying food.
- Spend less money on take-out for nights you don’t feel like cooking.
- Save time and reduce stress by not needing to decide what to cook each meal.
If you think about what you like most about each step of the process, and plan for any barriers that you may encounter, then you should be able to find a way to make the meal planning process more enjoyable for you. Follow these tips below to start creating a well developed meal plan that will save you time and money and will kickstart a healthy lifestyle.
When will you create a meal plan and who will be involved?
Get your family involved in creating the menu. Make a goal of trying a new recipe once a month.
Look at recipes for the entire meal. Entrees, whole meals, sides, snacks, salads, and healthy desserts.
Think simple for weekday grab-and go.
Commit yourself to a day and time which will be your weekly planning time. Weekly plans are much better than monthly plans, which can quickly become too overwhelming and too much work, and all the easier to give up.
Meal plans should only take you around 15-minutes. Sit down somewhere without distraction to look through cookbooks and online recipes that you want to try for the week. Get your recipes from trusted, healthy sources. Look at reviews of the recipe if you aren’t sure.
Reuse old plans that you’ve already created and worked well to cut down on time in the future.
When and where will you shop? Who will join you?
When creating a plan, make notes of the items you already have at your house. Create a shopping list for only the items you need.
You may take some time to look through ads for your local grocery store if you would like to save money, or look at schedules of farmer’s markets if you want to make sure your food is local.
When will you prepare food for a week ahead? Who will help?
Establish order by making time to prep and cook food, start with a clean kitchen, clean fresh fruit, and vegetables.
If you are prepping meals for several servings, give yourself an hour at the beginning of the week to cook and store everything.
If you are cooking each meal individually, plan on putting out your ingredients at the start of the day to make it quicker and easier to cook each night.
Meal prep ideas to get you started:
If you’re lost on where to start with prepping meals for the week, check out these resources to start finding recipes that fit your diet, lifestyle, and budget.