Meal planning can be pretty tough. Sometimes it seems impossible to find the time to plan, prep, and execute. The truth is, it isn’t impossible at all. In fact, it is very possible! Here are a couple of tips that can help you avoid falling into common pitfalls of that come with the territory of meal planning:
1. Make food you will want to eat. This one seems pretty obvious, but it is really important to be realistic about the kinds of food you will want for the entire week. It can get pretty tiring having oatmeal every morning and salad for lunch every day. As long as you spruce it up and keep it interesting, you will be more inclined to stick to your plan!
Things to consider: Do you have a special recipe you wanted to try? Are you craving something? Most importantly, is your week extra busy? If so, you might want to think of recipes that are fast and easy, especially for the weekdays. Note: having a list of ~20 recipes is extremely helpful.
2. A well-balanced diet starts at the grocery store, so when creating your grocery list make sure there are components from all food groups. You don’t have to have a recipe for every item you buy, but have an idea of when you will eat the food you purchase. Example: is the fruit you buy for a snack and/or a topping for oatmeal? Also, consider what is on sale, in s
eason, and if you have coupons for an item to be more budget-friendly.
3. Don’t plan a meal to cook for every day of the week. If you can recycle leftovers or ingredients, you can save both time, money, and room in your fridge. Example: think of meals that have ingredients in common; if you made grilled chicken on Monday, make enough so that you can chop up leftovers for a chicken salad for lunch on Tuesday or shred the meat for tacos a later night in the week.
4. FREEZE! Make extra servings of a dish on a day you have more time to cook. For example, if you made a huge pot of soup, you can freeze it in individual freezer bags or heavy-weight/ air-tight containers. For portion control or an easy packed lunch, you can even freeze them into individual servings. This helps prevent waste and is a useful tool for saving food that you might not have eaten before it goes bad.
5. Give yourself some wiggle room. If you planned to cook one night and were just too exhausted and bought take-out or just reheated leftovers – it’s no big deal! Just switch up the days in your meal plan so that you can cook what you planned later. Try to keep your plan flexible and don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t stick to what you planned.
Meal planning, like most things, gets better with practice. The more you try to do it, the better you get at it! I’m sure you will even develop your own little tricks and methods that work for you. If you do have some other tips, please mention them in the comments to share with other readers!