Tips for Better Meal Planning

by on September 1, 2015

Meal PlanningToday we are going to talk about tips for better meal planning. I have to say when I started doing this, it made a huge difference in how smooth my week ran. I make a menu for the week, I then make my grocery list from that menu, and I know what I’m making every day of the week.  It removed a lof of morning stress from my life of trying to decide what to make. Meal planning is also an important part of achieving optimal nutrition. If you don’t have a plan for what you’re going to eat, you may end up grabbing whatever is fastest and most readily available.

What Is Meal Planning?

Meal planning is simply deciding in advance what you’re going to have to eat. In most cases people plan several days’ worth of meals and snacks. It makes shopping, cooking and preparing food, and eating, a much simpler and healthier process. Like I said I always try to do my planning for a week.

Here are nine steps to make meal planning fun and easy.

#1 Decide how often you can shop.

If you can only shop once a week then you’re going to want to plan an entire week’s worth of meals. If you can shop every three or four days then you only have to plan those meals.

#2 Plan for snacks too.

Include snacks into your meal planning. It’s too easy to grab something unhealthy when you don’t have a plan. We talk about this and have healthy snacks in our free weekly healthy living challenges.

#3 Make it tasty.

Sure, you can plan to have carrots and celery stick for a snack. However, if you don’t like carrots and celery sticks, there’s a bigger risk of you letting that snack get moldy in the fridge while you go out for some fries. Make sure the recipes and foods you put into your meal plan are actually foods that you want to eat.

#4  Identify recipe sources.

Where are you going to find your meal ideas? Identify a handful of great sources of nutritious recipes. For example, you might begin to subscribe to a few nutritious eating blogs, or you might buy a few cookbooks. We try to share recipes we like every day on our Facebook page and Twitter.

#5 Create a system.

Create systems to organize and plan. For example, maybe you hit the supermarket on Wednesday and Sunday. Sit down at your table and make a full meal plan before you shop. Add ingredients from each recipe to your shopping list so you go to the store knowing exactly what you need to buy.

#6 Get your family involved.

If you’re cooking for a family, get them involved in the meal planning – and maybe even the preparation! When people feel that they have a say in what is served, they tend to be more excited about it. You might, for example, let a child choose one meal a week. They can also help prepare that meal.

#7 Have contingency plans.

It always makes sense to have some backup food. You might not have leftovers that you expected from last night’s dinner and now you have nothing for lunch. If you have some backups then you’re ready to go.

#8 Make ahead.

If you live a super busy life (and who doesn’t), then consider a few make-ahead recipes. These are healthy recipes that you can prepare on the weekend, freeze, and thaw and heat for dinner. Casseroles are great for this. Crockpot recipes are also wonderful. You can put everything together in the morning and come home to dinner.

#9 Try something new.

It’s easy to get into a meal planning rut. Meatless Monday, taco Tuesday, casserole on Wednesday and so on. While that does provide a framework to make planning easier, it can also start to feel limiting. Try to include one new recipe each week. It’s good to feel excited about your food.

#10 Advanced prepping

For me this has made a HUGE difference. When I come home for the food shopping I prep all of my veggies for salads for the week, and I place them individually in glass containers. I have large ones that I purchased at target for the greens for salads, and then I have smaller canning jars that I use for each item that goes into the salad. It lasts and stays fresh for the week, and we actually use it because I’m not too tired to make a salad at meal time because it’s been a long day. It really doesn’t take that much longer to chop for the week then is does to chop for once, and you only have to clean up once. I love that. I hate cleaning up. I will often does some cooking and freeze as well.

For some meal planning and prep can take some getting used to. For me I loved it as soon as I started doing it and regretted that I hadn’t started it sooner. If you don’t like doing it, just stick with it, once you’ve integrated these habits into your routine, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. It’s a great way to make sure that each meal is nutritious and delicious.

I would love to hear any tips you may have on making your meal prep easier.  Let’s chat about it here on Facebook. Click here (Our Facebook Page)

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