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Learning how to meal plan might be one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself and your family. Meal planning takes the stress out of daily life, keeps your budget in line, and allows you to prepare healthier meals. Beginners, I have you covered! Below is a super simple way to begin meal planning.
Items you’ll need to start meal planning:
- Chalkboard, whiteboard, pre-printed template, or, if you like to recycle like me, a scratch piece of paper works just fine.
- Recipe books and/or Pinterest (Magazines are a great place to grab recipes from too!)
Shopping Favorites to help you get started
Step 1 – Take the stress out of your daily life.
There’s nothing worse than getting home after a long, tiring, day and not knowing what to cook for dinner. It’s stressful, frustrating and it often leads to quick, unhealthy, meals out. Here is how to start meal planning:
- Once a week, on the same day, (I do this every Monday) plan your recipes by meal. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
- Have each day of the week, broken down by meals. (pictured below)
- Be realistic with your recipe choices. How much time do you really want to spend cooking?
- Look for easy recipes that call for fresh ingredients and are low on boxed or processed items.
- Make it even simpler by having the same breakfast every day that week and eating your leftovers from dinner for lunch. This will also help your budget too.
Step 2 – Keep your budget in check!
Once upon a time, I use to hit the grocery store without a list. Bad idea. Walking into a grocery store without a list in hand can lead to grabbing more items than you need and unhealthy food choices. Keeping and buying off a list of actual needs will keep you on track. After listing out your meals for the week, you’re ready for the following:
- List out the items you will need for each recipe.
- Take time to cross-reference your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer for ingredients you already have on hand. It’ll save you money by not buying something you don’t need.
- Once you have a completed list, head to the grocery store or farmer’s market for shopping!
Step 3 – Prepping for healthy meals.
Sure it’s easy to eat unhealthy at home. The list of unhealthy boxed and frozen items in a store is overwhelming. Easy, yes. Good for you and your health? No. A little trick I’ve learned to keep a healthier diet is to shop a grocery store’s perimeter. Skip the boxed processed items in the middle of the store. Chances are, you’ll even find the bulk food section in the perimeter. Once you’re home from shopping, you’re ready for the last step.
- Wash and chop all fresh items according to the recipe’s instructions.
- Store all chopped vegetables in glass containers until you’re ready to use throughout the week.
- Don’t wash fruits or berries until you are ready to eat them. It will increase the chance of spoiling because the excess moisture will speed up fruit decay.
- Try to remove all plastic bags. They also tend to capture moisture.
*Note: This step can easily be removed if needed. However, keep in mind, all of your chopping and recipe prep will have to be done before you make a meal. It really is best to prepare fresh items in advance directly after coming home from the store. One less thing to do after a hard day of work is always better.
Meal planning takes time and commitment. How much time you spend is up to you just like how much you’re willing to commit to this. Make this your own, find your happy place and let it soar. Something I like to do for myself each week is take a night off of cooking. That can mean going out to a restaurant, hello cheat meal, or maybe it’s passing the wand over to another family member for the night. Everyone deserves a night off, right?!
I hope these super easy steps have helped you begin to make a simple lifestyle change. If you need further help or have any questions about the tips above, I’m here for you, let me know what I can do to help! I always love new ideas, how do you meal prep?