Eat healthier, save time and money by learning How to Start Meal Planning in 3 Simple Steps! + Grab FREE Weekly Meal Planner with grocery shopping list PRINTABLE for planning your weekly meals.
Most popular New Year's resolutions always have something to do with foods. Right? Beginning the year, people usually decide to eat healthier, cook more at home, eat less store-bought/restaurant take outs foods and if possible save money on groceries and food in general. Making these better eating resolutions and putting them on paper is always a good thing. It means people are aware of stuff that's holding them from living more healthier happier life. But for many of the people, sticking to this healthy eating resolutions may seem like a hard task. Well, it doesn't have to be.
The great news is that simple thing, like meal planning, can help you with all these resolutions! YES, all! Meal planning is one of the easiest things you can do to set yourself up for healthy eating success.
Today I'm gonna explain a little about how meal planning helped me with my lifestyle change and my weight loss. But before we go into deep, let me explain what meal planning is.
WHAT IS MEAL PLANNING?
By definition, meal planning is a technique of charting your meals for a specific period of time. It's based on your tastes, health plans, and the ingredients that are available to you. Simply put, it's like asking the what's for dinner question once for the whole week, instead of every night (and then go crazy shopping for all ingredients and rushing to cook the dinner... sounds familiar?! I bet!)
Meal planning is a concept that is easily learned. It consists of three basic steps:
Selecting the recipes.
Shopping for ingredients.
Preparing the ingredients.
Trust me. It's super easy to learn this new skill. And as you ease into meal planning, you'll become more skilled, and eventually, it will take you less time to do it. When you master meal planning, it will take you maybe 2-3 hours to do all three steps. When done well, this practice will save you money. And you'll feel less stressed over healthy home cooking and eating.
After three years of practicing meal planning, I now need only a half an hour to set my weekly meal plan. I usually do it over the weekend - starting on Saturday or Sunday morning. I then go shopping in the evening - it's less crowded. And I then spend maybe an hour or so on Sunday for meal prepping. Here I involve my kiddo and my hubby sometimes, so it's a family time too. Meal planning became a routine, something that keeps my family and me healthy.
WHY IS MEAL PLANNING IMPORTANT?
Meal planning helped me change the way I eat. I believe that if I didn't use this simple method, I wouldn't have lost 100 pounds. Nor would I change eating habits of my entire family. Also, it changed my food buying habits and saved me big bucks on groceries. Meal planning is a true lifesaver!
Here why meal planning is so cool and why you should start planning your meals asap.
It will improve your nutrition
With planning in advance, you will have nutritionally well-balanced meals throughout the whole week. For example, you can plan each of your dinners to have the necessary veggies, protein, and grains. Like this Chicken Skewers With Turmeric Bulgur. It's perfect well-balanced family dinner. Also with meal planning, you will enjoy the variety of different foods instead of eating the same dish five times a week. You can plan your menu, so you are always enjoy something new.
You will eat healthier
When you have a whole menu set for few days in advance and ingredients prepared, you won't get yourself into the situation where you have to come up with something to eat at the last minute. Last minute choices usually end up with buying pizza or ordering greasy chicken takeout. Homemade meals are always the best choice. Why buying canned soups, when you can make perfect creamy Fresh Tomato Apple Soup at home. Delicious! Also, choosing your own recipes and ingredients allows you to make better food choices - to shop organic or at local markets.
You will shop more efficiently
When you plan meals, you also get to shop for groceries more efficiently. You will have a list of the ingredients ready so when you go shopping you know exactly what you need to buy. Since you get to choose recipes, you can make a plan to include ingredients you already have in your fridge or pantry. You can plan your meals depending on What's In Season or on discounts. Grocery shopping will be less stressful since you will know what you need.
You will save more money
With less dining out and less ordering food, and with shopping for groceries more efficiently, you will naturally save money. Once you know what ingredients you will be needing, you can also find out where to buy these ingredients cheaply. Also, you'll waste less food, and you won't impulsively shop foods you don't need. As soon as you start meal planning, you'll notice nice savings in family budget account.
It will save your time
With your grocery shopping list set, you won't walk around the grocery store aimlessly and your meal plans will save you from having to think about what to eat every day. Not to mention it will decrease stress levels to almost zero. Simple meal prepping on Saturday night will save you a lot of time on cooking the meals. You'll have dinner ready in no time.
Now please agree with me that meal planning is indeed a great thing to do? No wonder there are so many people talking and advocating about meal planning. Me included.
Ok, so here's How to Start Meal Planning in 3 Simple Steps.
1. PICK AND SCHEDULE MEALS
First, take a few moments to think about what you have going on in the week ahead. Take a quick inventory of everything you have in fridge and pantry, and get sync with everyone’s plan for next week to get a rough idea of how many meals you’ll need. A sample list might be four family dinners, one picky eater kids dinner, five office lunches for you and hubby, one big family dinner.
Then think how much time you have to cook. This is a very important step because you can plan all you want, but if you don’t have time to execute it, you won’t benefit from it. So expand your previous list with info like two make-ahead family dinners, two family dinners under 30-minute, five make-ahead lunches, and one family dinner under 1 hour. The more specific you get here, the easier it is to find dishes that fit your needs.
With that set, now you can go and look up for recipes. Think about your family favorites or if you feel adventures, peruse new recipes to try. Keep in mind what’s in season and what your family like eating. You can make something like master recipe list - every time you find a new recipe your family love, add it to the master list. My advice here is to keep things simple. I recommend sticking to only one new recipe a week.
If you’re up for trying a new recipe, check out my Pinterest boards. Follow me for daily inspiration.
When choosing recipes, look for overlapping ingredients to minimize waste and cooking. Plan leftovers to make the most of your food budget and time. As for breakfast and snack ideas, my advice is to come up with 2-3 breakfast and snack ideas and rotate them throughout the week. This gives you the flexibility to eat what you want when you want it.
If you're looking to get some easy home cook meals inspiration emailed to you, subscribe to my list and get recipes straight into your inbox every week.
2. WRITE A GROCERY LIST AND DO THE SHOPPING
Once you’ve got recipes set, it's time to write out the ingredients you will need for your menu. Take a quick look at your inventory for ingredients you already have to avoid overbuying. Add only items that you need for the specific recipe. You don’t need to write ingredients you commonly have on hand – things like olive oil, salt, common seasonings. You can group your ingredient list as they appear in the store. That will save you time on shopping.
Take the advantage of sales in supermarkets as well as discounts of seasonal produce at the local market. If something is on sale cheap, consider buying for two meals. Cook bulk and then freeze one meal for later.
Plan to go to the grocery store 1-2 times a week. This will help you manage your time better and can help you use up all of the food that you bought.
3. DO THE PREPPING
That's the easiest and most fun part. At least for me, since I have my little helper around. Meal prepping includes washing salads, chopping the veggies, grating the cheese, cutting and marinating the meat, etc... Make everything you can in advance - like Tomato Sauce for Chicken Parmesan dinner, or Honey Mustard Dressing for your favorite lunch salad. Have everything boxed in airtight containers, glass jars or zip-lock bags and ready. Also, you can cook sides like rice, bulgur or quinoa in bulk and in advance too.
Healthy eating means eating as fresh as possible, so I suggest you prep your meals for up to 2-3 days in advance. You can cook with fresh ingredients at the beginning of the week and then prepare recipes that call for frozen goods or canned ones at the end of the week. Get in the habit of making healthy meals more often and you will start to cook healthy meals more often.
Meal planning will make you stay true to your healthy eating goals. It will also save you tons of time and money. To make your meal planning easy, I created this FREE printable Weekly Meal Planner with grocery shopping list where you can log your recipes.
Grab your free Weekly Meal Planner printable!
You can grab your free PDF copy of this simple Weekly Meal Planner with shopping list by clicking here. Post your menu plan on your fridge, or in a schedule book so it's accessible to you every day.
Happy meal planning!