It sounds so boring I had to put the 101 after it. Who wants to spend their precious time meal planning? (Besides us dietitians, that is). The truth is, if you care at all about your health, wallet and/or sanity, meal planning is actually a life saver. The small time investment you put into planning your meals will pay off when you don’t have to run around like a crazy person mid-week wondering what to make for dinner. It can save you from over-reliance on convenience foods that you know do nothing for your health and energy.
Here I’ll share with you my own not-too-anal meal planning system that makes things easier during the time between grocery trips.
Call a Family Meeting
Get the whole family involved in the weekly meal planning – even if that’s just you and your cat. Kitty needs to eat, too. Take into account preferences when reasonable, and of course any food sensitivities. If your kids struggle with vegetables, include any they do like. It’s helpful to plan meals that use the same ingredients to avoid food waste and to save money.
Don’t forget to take into account any events or plans to be away during the week, so you don’t plan a 5 course meal on soccer night and wind up with fast food nuggets instead. Maybe it’s quick soup and sandwiches that day or omelettes and fruit. Dinner doesn’t always have to be of the extravagant recipe type. Making your own version of fast food is still better than a drive-through dinner table.
Write Down Meals
Make sure you actually write out the meals you plan to have for the week in a place you won’t forget them. Trust me. I’ve casually written down meals on my shopping list, only to throw it out and forget what recipes I wanted to make.
The Shopping List
To create your shopping list, simply see what ingredients you need for the meals you want to make that week. Make sure you calculate amounts based on the number of servings you want to have. If you want to have leftovers some days, make sure you get enough ingredients to make an amount that will make enough.
Don’t forget to list ingredients you need for breakfast, lunch and snacks, minus any leftovers you’ll have.
As you make your list, shop your pantry and fridge first to see what you have available and don’t need to buy again. You can do this step in the planning phase as well, in case you have a lot of food you can use and base your week’s meals around.
As a bonus to make shopping smoother, rewrite your list in the order you go through your grocery store. This helps me not forget things, and it’s faster in the store!
Now it’s time to go to the store! Bring your list – and stick to it! Don’t be lured by the BOGO sales, unless they happen to be on your list. Things will be on sale again, it’s not the armageddon of grocery stores.
Note the Prep-work
Once you’ve got all your groceries home, and your meals listed clearly, note which things you might be able to prep a little as you put them away. This is optional, and could save you time later in the week, and make you more likely to stick to your plan.
Have anything in the freezer that needs to thaw before using in a meal? Note when you will need to swap it to the fridge to allow it to be ready for use. It might help to make a reminder on your phone – these things are too easy to forget. Then it’s 99% certain you’ll call out for pizza because your chicken breasts are solid as a rock!
Enjoy Home-Cooked Meals all Week!
All that’s left is to stick to your plan during the week. All the thinking and prep is done for you, you can simply be a robot and make your meals, knowing you’ve done you, your family and your wallet a service!
March is Meal Planning month in the Facebook group ChallengeMe: Live healthy and vibrant – without Dieting! Join any time!