I can’t tell you how much easier and healthier my life is when I plan my meals. I never have to fridge surf for meal or snack ideas, I rarely have a last-minute grocery store run, and I am full and satisfied during the day!
I have been planning my meals and snacks for many months now. There have been a few weeks where I’ve forgotten or been too lazy to take a few minutes out of my day to plan, and I will be honest. On those days my eating is C-R-A-P. And that results in me feeling like C-R-A-P.
But days I have my meal plan and follow it well, I feel great!
For those who are not planners, meal planning can seem very daunting. But it’s not. It may seem a bit odd at first, but with practice, everything becomes easier and more habitual. So give it a try for a few weeks and see how you feel. Basically, don’t knock it until you try it!
Here are 5 easy steps you can do to start meal planning today:
- Pick 1 meal to plan in advance. If you are new to meal planning, planning all 3 meals and snacks is overwhelming. So pick one meal to start with; I suggest planning dinner. Dinner is typically our biggest meal of the day and it also occurs in the evening when we are most tired. It’s easy to search the fridge at night, not know what to cook, and go out and grab not-so-healthy take out instead. With meal planning, you will eat healthier and save money on not going out. So dinner is a great place to start.
2. Take inventory of your fridge, freezer and pantry. You don’t need a master list, just note the big things: perishable items like meats, dairy and produce, staples such as rice and pasta, and some sauces and spices you have. We tend to buy the same foods over and over again, so this should be easier than it sounds to do. You can write it down, or you may already know what you have.
3. Look for recipes. Pull out your cookbooks, magazines and search the internet for recipes. You can look for recipes using the staples you already have on hand so you can use those up before they expire.
My favorite way to do this is by using Pinterest. When you find a great recipe you want to try, pin it to your Pinterest account. You can easily search your Pinterest page for items such as “chicken thighs” or “zucchini” and see what pops up. It makes searching for recipes quick and easy
Make a list of what meals you are cooking for the week. You can use pen and paper, your online calendar, a Word document, whatever you like. But be specific when writing things down.
Monday – Chicken Piccatta – recipe is at http://www.chickenpicattarecipe.com
Tuesday – Veggie Burritos – recipe in Mexican Cookbook page 45
Make sure you read the entire recipe to make sure you have all the necessary equipment, skills and time to cook the meal. Double check your schedule to make sure you don’t have an extra long day and are coming home to cook a detailed dinner. On longer days, choose quick cook or slow cooker meals. On days where you may have a little more time, you can be more adventurous with your cooking.
4. Make a list of items on the recipe you need to purchase. And remember, especially with produce, you can make swaps for what you have on hand. If you have broccoli in your fridge, but the recipe calls for cauliflower, use the broccoli instead. If the recipe calls for kale, and you have spinach, use spinach instead. Have ground turkey but no ground beef? Use the turkey instead. If the meat, fruit or vegetable is similar, then you can easily make the swap in the recipe and not have to buy something new.
I like to break up my grocery list by day, though you may choose to do it by category (i.e. meat, produce, cheese) for easier shopping. I choose day because if there is not a good choice for produce, meat, etc. available for a meal later in the week, I know I can wait. If it’s for a meal that evening, I know I either need to switch up my meal plan, trading one night for the other, or go to another store.
Go grocery shopping for items. I usually end up going shopping twice a week since most fresh produce doesn’t last very long. But once you get in the habit of shopping, you can get it done fast! If you can’t go more than once a week, then the freezer will become your best friend for foods that you will use later in the week (especially produce). Purchase frozen fruits and vegetables over canned as frozen maintain more nutrients. And you can definitely freeze your meat. Just defrost in the fridge a day ahead of cooking.
5. Prep anything you can. Things you can do ahead of time:
– wash and chop vegetables and put in premeasured containers
– cook rice, quinoa, pasta or any other grain
– make beans (soak and cook)
– precut any meat
– shred cheeses
By following these 5 steps, you will make your weeknight meals so much easier! Try it – I promise you’ll love it!
Still a little lost on meal planning? Check out my social media outlets. I will post my meal plans, some great recipes and tips on how to meal prep. I meal plan on Sundays – so be sure to check me out at www.facebook.com/fit4mesite and @ashleyfit4me on Instagram.