It can feel overwhelming to begin meal planning, but over time it becomes just like any other habit, a routine part of your week. With my five simple tips, you’ll be planning meals in no time!
I promise, simple is my middle name (ok, not really…but, you know what I mean) so you better believe that these tips are tangible for anyone to implement. My husband calls me the “lazy” one in our house, and sometimes I’d have to agree…so if I can meal plan, so can you!
1. Assess your calendar and eaters.
- Before you even put pen to paper, it’s important to check out what’s going on for the week. Do you have meetings after work? Soccer practice and swimming lessons to take the kids to? What about that weekly date night? Take these things into consideration, especially if it means you’ll need to prepare meals on-the-go or plan on eating out.
Additionally, think about what your eaters like, if there are any others that you’re cooking for. Are your vegetarian neighbors coming over for dinner on Tuesday – maybe plan for a meatless meal that night. Are there any food allergies to account for? Does your family love bold flavored meals? Is there a fun theme you can implement like ‘taco tuesday’ or ‘pizza night’? This can be a quick way to assess what kind of meals to add to your meal plan.
2. Pick your recipes and write them down!
This can seem like a daunting task – so many recipes to pin, clip, dog-ear and compile! If you’ve followed Step #1, you already have an idea of what you like to make or what your fellow eaters enjoy. My biggest piece of advice here is to simplify the process – don’t feel like you have to come up with 2+ different recipes for 3 meals and snacks. Don’t be afraid to duplicate and alternate days on the calendar that you eat the same meal. Think about repurposing leftovers into something entirely new (great for turning last night’s dinner into tomorrow’s lunches!).
Here’s my general formula for meal planning:
3. Make your grocery list.
But first!! Do a quick inventory sweep of the pantry and fridge so you don’t duplicate and buy unnecessary extras. There are even apps where you can share lists with a roommate or family member who also does the shopping so no one duplicates and buys…three cans of black beans when you already had two on hand. I may or may not be speaking from experience here. Then tweak your list accordingly and head to the store!
Another pro tip: Check out your grocer’s sale ads for deeper discounts. you can always go back and revise your meal plan. Is talapia on sale instead of salmon – swap the salmon in your meal plan for tilapia! Are canned beans running on special? Pick up a few cans of black beans to add into chili night!
4. Prep what you can.
This is one of the most important time savers that I cannot stress enough. Spending even just 30 minutes batch cooking brown rice, quinoa, and prepping common recipe vegetables (like chopping onions or washing greens) can be a huge timesaver later on. I also suggest hard boiling eggs, baking some chicken or tofu, and even roast a pan of veggies. This will seriously make your life so. much. easier. putting meals on the table quickly.
5. Be flexible!
Don’t hold yourself super strict to your meal plan, because let’s face it, life happens and sometimes the dinner we planned for on Tuesday night is going to get pushed to Thursday night. That’s OK! Let your meal plan be fluid, but don’t let that mean that you can entirely put it off – remember, the main goal here is to make healthy eating the easy choice and to simplify your week!
Hope this post helps you jumpstart your meal planning. Remember, after a few weeks of planning, save those recipes and calendars, and you’ve got a cycle menu to pull from so you don’t have to recreate the wheel every week! Win-win!
I’d love to hear your favorite meal planning tips, recipes, or challenges! Share in the comments below.