Meal planning doesn’t need to be scary, and it doesn’t have to include complicated meals. If planning for a full month is too much for you, try a week or even a few days at a time.
When it comes to most things, I’m a planner. Anyone who knows me, knows I love to make lists, sometimes still with pen and paper! So it should come as no surprise that I also like to plan my weekly meals.
I recommend planning for at least the times you’re most busy. So for most people, this would be the typical work week, Monday to Friday. But feel free to adjust as needed and make this work for your own schedule.
For me, meal planning helps with 3 key things. It reduces stress, encourages healthy eating, and helps save money! It’s really a win win win! Keep reading, and I bet you’ll give it a try.
Meal Planning Reduces Stress
Weekly meal planning has helped me tremendously in the kitchen. By spending a little time each week planning for the week ahead (I usually do this every Friday or Saturday), I can breathe easy each day. I’m not consumed by what I should make for dinner that evening. I just open up my planner and take a look. Easy right?
I know it may seem like a lot of work up front, but this time spent will truly make the rest of the week a breeze. Plus, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be planning your meals in no time!
When selecting recipes, make sure to choose your them wisely. Take a look at your calendar, and really think what makes sense each day. Don’t expect that things will ‘work out’ without putting some thought into this. Determine which evenings will be your busiest and save the more complicated meals for the nights you have more time to cook. Or you can always prep on Sundays, or the evening prior.
I tend to keep the “easier” meals toward the end of the week, when I know I’ll be that much more tired. So things like one pot meals, or recipes requiring minimal ingredients and prep time are typically my Thursday and Friday go to meals. On the nights you have more time to cook, why not double up on a recipe? Now you’ll have leftovers for a busier night when all you have time for is reheating.
Need some help choosing meals? I’ve got a lot of options for you right here on my site, so please browse the recipes and get inspired! Don’t forget other great sources like Pinterest or some good old fashion cookbooks! And again, do what works for you and your family to minimize stress during a busy week!
Meal Planning Encourages Healthy Eating
Choosing to cook at home, rather than ordering in or dining out promotes healthier choices on its own. Restaurants typically use far more oil and salt in their food than most people would be accustomed to cooking with at home. So having a plan in place to cook meals, whether they are simple or more complex is already encouraging healthier choices.
By having a healthy plan in place, and then having the ingredients to follow that plan, it really deters me from “winging it”. For instance, let’s say Thursday rolls around and I’ve planned broccoli soup, but I’m really craving pizza? Well let’s just say it’s a good thing I don’t typically have pizza ingredients in my house.
Going to the supermarket with a grocery list that caters to my meal plan helps deter me from making impulse purchases. So it’ll be broccoli soup after all. 🙂
Creating a healthy meal plan for the week also means I don’t need to think about what I’m making each evening. This also encourages healthy choices, since you’re not thinking about what to eat when you’re already hungry. Pro Tip: Don’t make your meal plan on an empty tummy. Being hungry and planning meals can be a recipe for disaster, depending on your level of discipline!
Finally, don’t forget to visualize your plate as your choosing your weekly meals. Remember that fruit and vegetables should always cover half your plate.
Meal Planning Saves You Money!
Okay, now let’s talk about how meal planning saves you money. I don’t know about you, but when I go to the grocery store without a clue of what I’m cooking for the week, I practically buy the entire store! Just me? “Oh look, turnips are on sale!” Hmm I can probably find a use for those? And it goes on and on until I practically need a second grocery cart.
On the other hand, when I’ve planned my meals and go to the supermarket with a list of items I truly need, I’m less likely to make impulse purchases.
To make the most impact on saving money, think about the following things as you’re planning your meals.
- First and foremost, open your fridge and pantry. Shop at home, before you shop at the store. Not only will you save money, but you will also be avoiding waste. Plan meals around the ingredients you have, especially the perishable ones.
- Look at the flyers. What’s on sale? Can you price match, use coupons, etc. I use the Flipp app to browse grocery flyers, which I’ve found extraordinarily helpful in saving money and planning my meals.
- Think local. What’s in season at this time of year? Typically, items that don’t need to be imported, and are grown locally at a given time of year are less expensive. Not to mention fresher! Try to plan your meals around the freshest produce available.
- And finally, choose recipes that have common ingredients, or ones that can be easily substituted. Remember that recipes are not an exact science, but more of an inspiration. Get creative, and sub out items for ingredients sitting in your fridge, freezer, or pantry.
Do you really need more reasons to try this? You won’t be disappointed by how much simpler and healthier your life will be. And who doesn’t like to save a few bucks?
Give it a try, and once you do, do it again! The more you do it, the more you’ll want to continue. I promise it gets easier each time.
Did you have a successful week of planned meals without hiccups? No need to trash that plan you worked so hard on. Save it and recycle it for another week.
Have any other great tips on meal planning? Feel free to share them with me below.