Ask yourself the following questions…
Are you totally OVERWHELMED and EXHAUSTED with the amount of time and energy spent on figuring out your meals every day?
Are you often trying to scramble to cook at 6:00 p.m. when you’re absolutely starving and your kids are SCREAMING?
Do you just want EASY tips and strategies to spend LESS time grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning up your kitchen and need ideas for easy, healthy meals?
You’re not alone. But, you’ve come to the right place! This is my passion and I’m going to share my time-saving secrets to creating healthy meals that your whole family will love (because there is nothing worse than preparing a nice meal that nobody eats!).
Here are my 10 tips to meal planning success. Print these tips and post in your kitchen as a reminder! Once you get the hang of it, the whole process should only take about 3-4 hours/week. Think about how much less stressed you’ll be without having to throw together a last minute meal every night!
1.) Organize! Don’t let your pantry become a disaster area. Take charge of your pantry and freezer items. Once a week go through your freezer, fridge and pantry and pull out anything that is close to expiring and put in front. Use these items as a base for some of your meals you will prep that week. This way you won’t waste food and throw away your hard earned money.
2.) Plan. Sit down and plan your meals for the week. Start small if you’re new to meal planning. Plan your meals for 3 days, not every day. Pick your most challenging meal – breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Use this template as a guide.
3.) Research. Look up a few new healthy recipes and also ones that are family favorites to add to your grocery list. You can try one or two new recipes a week and on the other days use ones that are familiar to you. Think about what you have going on the next week so that you’re stocked with heathy foods in your pantry. It’s helpful to make the same meal every week on the same day (for example different versions of a Meatless Monday meal, Taco Tuesday etc). Here is an excellent resource for custom meal plans and healthy recipes if you need more ideas or want to find healthier versions of your favorite meals.
4.) Make your list. Plan your grocery items. Create your list based on your recipes for the week and typical staple items you like to keep on hand. Sticking to your list will save you money at the store and also result in less waste from not buying too much. But, if you still have trouble sticking to your list, online grocery shopping may be better for you to limit the temptation of impulse buying. I like to use Peapod or AmazonFresh on extra busy weeks.
5.) Prep work. Once you have your food, get chopping! Washing and pre-chopping your produce will save tons of time during the week. This should only take about 30 minutes. So if you have an extra busy weekend and don’t have time to fully cook your meals in advance, doing the chopping will still make your life much easier. I like to do early Sunday mornings or during nap time. Find the time that is best for you. It will also encourage you and your family to eat healthy foods that are ready to go for a quick meal or snack.
6.) Get cooking! When you have the time, prep your meals for the coming week as much as you are able. You can set a goal of cooking for the next 2 days to start, then mid-week cook again. Just having 2 days done will be so helpful when starting your work week. Plus you’ll have those pre-cut fruit and veggies ready to go for quick meals.
7.) Plan snacks. They are important too! Snacking is not necessarily a bad thing. Many of us go too long in between our meals and then we get home and are HANGRY! That is a vicious cycle to be in because then you grab for anything in sight that is going to give you quick energy. Does this sound familiar? You’re getting dinner ready for your kids (because most of us are serving our kids first right?), you’re starved and you grab cheese and crackers, chips, etc and you end up overeating. Then you don’t want to have dinner and you end up eating dinner late, which is not good for your metabolism. Instead, use some of the produce you already pre-chopped during your prepping, ziplock bag them, and munch on them with hummus or 1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter to hold you over until dinner. The idea is to have healthy snacks be as easily accessible as a bag of chips.
8.) Another way to cut down on prep work is by using leftovers in a new way. Made pulled chicken? Add it to a quesadilla, in a chicken tortilla soup, or fill in lettuce wraps the next day. Made salmon? Cut up and add to a salad or in tacos the following day as your protein.
9.) Made too much and have excess leftovers? I’ve been there! Freeze it. Most meals freeze well and stay fresh up to 6 months. One exception is pasta and noodles. They do not freeze well and become mushy when thawed out. If you’re planning on freezing, (for example a chicken noodle soup) don’t add the noodles; wait to cook them until you thaw out the rest of the soup and you are ready to reheat.
10. Practice, practice, practice! Don’t give up if you’ve had a tough week and totally forgot to plan. Life happens. It’s what you are doing 90% of the time that counts. Keep doing it and you’ll find a way that works for you. I promise you it is worth it and will get easier. Meal planning saves you tons of time, energy, and MONEY! When you plan, you will be more equipped at home and you will eat out less. You will go through the drive-thru less. And if you have little ones like me, it’s difficult even getting them out the door so bringing them to a restaurant is not fun! Save yourself the trouble and cook more at home. Overall, meal planning is a system of adding in more healthful foods into your diet.
Please share your comments or feedback. Contact me if you have questions, have a topic request for a future blog post, or are interested in 1:1 counseling with me. I would love to hear from you <3