If there’s one technique I’ve learned to love on my journey towards health it’s meal planning. Not only does this appeal to the part of my Type A personality that loves organization, I also know exactly what I’m eating during the week, exactly how much to buy and whether there’ll be leftovers that can be carried into other days.
Meal planning helps to cut calories, ensures that your meals are healthy and well thought-out, cuts down on waste because you’re only buying what you need and cuts back on your grocery bill. All it takes is a little bit of time, one day a week and you barely have to think for the rest of the week. I always find that I feel more in control and on track with my eating when I plan and for busy people, it also cuts back on the extra step of pulling at your hair because you have no clue what to make for dinner after a 12 hour work day and your kids are freaking.
I tend to do my meal planning on the weekends, usually the day of or the day before I plan to go grocery shopping. It just makes things easier and more organized.
First and foremost, I don’t meal plan for every single meal. For me that’s just too tedious and I’m fairly predictable in that I eat the same breakfast almost every day (oatmeal and coffee) and I eat leftovers from dinner the night before for lunch so I just plan my dinners for the week and make sure I make enough that both my fiance and I have lunch the next day. But if you can’t stand the thought of eating the same stuff throughout the week, you can use these steps for every meal and not just for dinner! The other thing I try to plan out are my snacks, I snack about twice daily and tend to snack on fruit and a protein so I’ll have something like a dozen almonds with an apple or a nectarine with a small cup of yogurt but if I don’t plan them, I’m apt to start munching on whatever’s laying around!
Step 1 – Get Your Supplies
You’ll want to get:
- A pad of paper and pen or pull up an empty document on your computer
- Your favourite cookbooks
- Your favourite cooking websites
- You and your family’s schedule for the week
- Your kids/spouse (optional)
Step 2 – Brainstorm
Look at your schedule for the week. Will you be home each night? If you live with others, who else will be home and for which days? Do you have a social function coming up? Anticipating any late nights at work? Kids have soccer and you’ll have little time to make dinner? Book club meeting on Wednesday? Look ahead for these and plan for them.
Once you know what your week looks like and how much time you’ll have to cook your dinners, grab your favourite cookbooks/websites, your mental cookbook, ask your kids/spouse what they would like to eat and starting brainstorming the meals you’ll make for every night of the week. Write it down and make sure you also add which cookbook/site you got it from with page number if necessary for when you get to cooking it. This is a great opportunity to get your kids involved and teach them the importance of healthy eating. It also makes them feel like they’re contributing and you get some quality time with them. It also (hopefully) ensures that they’ll actually EAT the food you made for them (score)!
One other tip is to look at the ingredients before you make your grocery list. If one recipe calls for only 1 tablespoon of ricotta cheese, you won’t want to buy an entire container for just 1tbsp. Try looking for one or two more recipes that also call for ricotta so you’re not needlessly buying containers of things you only need a couple of spoonfuls for.
Step 3 – Compile The Grocery List
Now that you know what fabulous foods you’re going to eat this week, go back to the beginning and write down all the ingredients you need that you don’t have in the house for your grocery list. It may be easier to do this on the computer because then you can highlight your list and sort it to see doubles of things you need. Again, don’t forget about your snacks! Then hit up the grocery store and you’re done! All you have left to do is make your dinner!
If you’re really keen, you can even start making some of your dinners on the same day and just batch cook for the rest of the week and then all you need to worry about is reheating your dinners through the week. Frankly, I rarely do that but that’s also because I find cooking relaxing and look forward to it during my day so you do need to check in with yourself and see what would appeal the most to you!
Another option, now that you know you’re making this week is to start prepping beforehand. If Mondays dinner calls for 1 cup of onion but so does Tuesdays, go ahead and chop up and extra cup and put it into a container for less of a prep time on Tuesday!
Meal planning is even easier with meal planning software/apps and online templates, often for free. Next week, I’ll give you a few options you can use to help your sanity and I’ll also share my own personaly system for meal planning!
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