Top 14 Meal Planning Tips

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” When it comes to healthy eating, meal planning is the number one thing you can do to set yourself up for success while also saving time and money. Here are my top 14 tips to make meal planning a breeze!

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  1. Choose one meal to focus on. Planning out your all your meals and snacks for the week would take an incredible amount of planning, so instead focus on one area that you struggle with the most. For me, breakfast is usually the same rotation of oatmeal, yogurt bowls, or smoothies and lunch is leftovers or a sandwich, so I like to put the attention on dinner.
  2. Look at the schedule. Go through your calendar (and your family’s!) and note any special events/commitments. This will help you determine which nights you need to prepare for, how many people you need to account for, and what nights are free for meal prep. Keep in mind that food preferences, weather, and cravings can also influence what you eat.
  3. Create a place to save recipes. When I first started meal planning I would print out all the recipes I made and put them in a binder, making notes about any changes I made to the recipe and whether or not I liked it. If you’re more of a digital person, Pinterest works just as well too.
  4. Look in your pantry and fridge.Make note of any food that needs to be used up or you already have on hand. Plan meals using these ingredients first to cut down on cost and on food waste.
  5. Ask your family/roommates what they want to eat. No need to come up with the meal plan entirely on your own! Plus, they’ll be happier with whatever ends up on the table.
  6. Go with a theme night. Stick with themes like “Taco Tuesday” or “Pizza Fridays” to use as a template for the week.
  7. Utilize ingredients for multiple meals. Instead of cooking a completely new meal every night, utilize the ingredients you have to prepare for one meal into other meals for the week. For example, if you’re grilling chicken for dinner one night, grill up a few extra to serve on top of salad the next day.
  8. Plan quick meals or leftovers for days you don’t have much time to cook. Nobody wants to come home late from work and have to spend another hour in the kitchen. The crock pot is a great tool for nights like this!
  9. If you have time, get creative.I love to cook, so when I have an evening free I’ll experiment with more complex or new-to-me recipes. Of course you can always stick to the basics, but building up your kitchen skills is never a bad thing.
  10. Plan for leftovers. Leftovers can be used for dinners throughout the week and also make great lunches! Even though I just cook for myself and my husband, I try to find recipes that serve 4-6 people so we both have lunches the next day. If you’re not one to eat the same meal over again, freeze your leftovers to have another time.
  11. Keep it flexible. Many people shy away from meal planning because they don’t know what they’ll feel like eating in a few days’ time. Let your meal plan be flexible so that you can choose between a few options during the week. Give yourself some freedom to accommodate last minute commitments that may pop up during the week as well. I typically plan out 5 days’ worth of dinners for the week, knowing that most likely something will come up during the week so I can push the meal to another day and not have that food go to waste.
  12. Make a grocery list. As your writing out your meals, make a list of all the ingredients you need at the grocery store to prevent you from forgetting anything or overbuying. I like to sort my list into sections based on where each item is located in the store to save me from running around the aisles.
  13. Plan a prep day. It can be useful to set aside time at the beginning of the week doing prep work for your meals so they come together quickly during the week. For example, if I’m having a salad with chicken one night, I may spend time shopping the veggies, grilling the chicken, and making the dressing ahead of time so I just need to toss it all together during the week.
  14. Keep convenience food on hand. I always keep my pantry/fridge stocked with staples like whole wheat pasta, quinoa, frozen shrimp, canned tuna, canned beans, peanut butter, whole wheat bread and frozen fruits and veggies just in case I need to throw together something quick. Even if I’m coming home from vacation or don’t have time to go grocery shopping, I can always take some bread out of the freezer and make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

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