Meal Planning Tips and Tricks
In my first post of this two part series, I shared 5 reasons to start planning your meals and the benefits you will experience by making this weekly commitment. In this post, I share all the big and little details from my experiences with meal planning with the hope that you are left feeling empowered. I also share some small tips that help make the process a bit smoother including my meal planning KITS worksheet.
Choose your Meals
When planning your meals and snacks for the week ahead, you will need your cookbooks, favorite foodie web sites and blogs, and most importantly your own ideas and creativity! Part of making meals and cooking is creating (and re-creating). Think of foods that you have always wanted to try. Think of healthier ways to make the meals you like to eat out. Use fresh ingredients and replacements/substitutes in recipes.
Get the whole family involved in the process of choosing recipes. It’s important that you decide as a family what you want to prepare throughout the week and how you are going to do it. Eating healthy and clean meals is a joint effort and each member of the household plays an important role in the overall health of the family.
If you’re single, you can still have an “eating well support system.” Find ways to get your neighbors, friends, coworkers and/or roommates involved.
Make your List
Once you’ve chosen your meals, you’ll make a grocery list. At the moment, I use this free and printable meal planner to assign meals to specific days of the week and compile our grocery list. I like that meals and snacks for the coming week, as well as the grocery list can be viewed at a glance. However, there are tons of different meal planner formats that you can choose from online. You may prefer to use a meal planning app on your phone in lieu of a pen and paper planner. The important thing is to find the method that works best for you and helps make meal planning a little easier and organized.
Pick a day of the week to meal plan as a family and grocery shop. The first time that you plan your meals and make your grocery list may take a little longer. Don’t worry. Over the next couple weeks, the process is going to become much faster.
Look at your schedule for the week ahead and pick dishes based off your "busyness" level. For example, if you have an exceptionally busy week, you may want to pick recipes that take under 20 minutes to prepare. If you have more time than usual, pick some in-depth recipes and make a fun family night or date night out of it.
When filling out the meal planner, keep in mind that some of your meals may last for a couple days. For example, if you were making vegan pumpkin muffins, you could plan to have them for breakfast for a few days and use different spreads on them to add variety.
Once you have your grocery list together, give it a glance over and make sure you are happy with it. Does your list strike a good balance? Is there enough fresh fruit and veg? Also, make sure that you are happy with where your dollar is going. It’s not worth buying a big jar of something or a sauce that you’ll only use once or may not even like just because a recipe calls for it. Feel free to sub in/out items that you prefer.
Make a Meal
When I speak to friends about mealtime, I often hear very similar comments, “I don’t like cooking for just myself” or “It feels like a lot of work” or “My children are such picky eaters.” It’s just not worth it is the overall sentiment. But making a meal doesn’t have to be a daunting task. It can be a fun activity to enjoy with your family, partner, friends or by yourself.
Have your children and/or husband help with prep, cooking and clean up. It’s more fun cooking and cleaning together than alone. Find what works best for your family and do it. Maybe some families prefer taking turns cooking meals and with clean up. Maybe some families prefer being together through the process. Whatever works for your family, just be sure that everyone is playing a role. It’s very rewarding to know that the whole gang contributed to a healthy meal.
If you have little ones, this is a great way to get them involved in the family as well as getting them excited about different foods. Children have a tendency to try food when they are involved in the preparation (my series on meal prep with children is coming soon).
Cooking for one? Don’t have roommates? Get your neighbors involved or coworkers or friends. Take turns cooking meals for each other during the week. Cook a little extra and take leftovers for lunch for you and a coworker. Get in a schedule with a couple neighbors or coworkers making dinners for each other or lunches. Schedule regular nights each week where you get together and cook together.
Save your Favorites
Make sure to keep a list of your favorite recipes. This will allow you to keep track of those meals you enjoyed and would like to make again in the coming weeks or months. You may prefer making recipe cards instead of a list, so your recipes are easily accessible and organized. You could also place sticky notes in your cookbooks or pin recipes to your Pinterest page. Whatever your preference, find a way to mark those recipes that you and your family enjoyed so they are easy to remember and make again.
I’d love to hear from you on how you enjoyed the post and what tips and tricks work best for you and your family.
Keep well, S