Meal planning can be just as tedious as making last-minute meals, but when done right it can save you a lot of time and effort. Plus, it is a great way to start eating healthier. By planning in advance, it eliminates the last-minute dinner rush that usually leads to a pizza being delivered to the door for convenience.
There are thousands of blogs and videos dedicated to creating a specific meal plan, however, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for you. In some cases, using borrowed inspiration can be overwhelming and cause you to forget the whole idea altogether. Our schedules all differ so it is about finding a plan that works for you. If a fully loaded binder complete with labels is just too time-consuming for you, don’t feel pressured to do it. There are so many different ways to make meal planning easier and once you find a routine that fits in with your lifestyle, it will be smooth sailing from there.
Whether you are following a strict keto diet or just want to start eating healthier, here are a few tips on how to make the process a whole lot easier for you!
Plan Meals Around Your Schedule
This point may seem obvious but it is worth mentioning. Meals should be planned around your lifestyle and time, not the other way around. Sometimes unpredictable things arise and in those times, it is ok to skip the meal plan altogether and just order that convenient takeout meal without feeling guilty. If you know you are going to be extremely busy that week, don’t feel pressured to cook an elaborate dinner either. Keep it simple and healthy.
Check Your Stock Before Making Plans
Before planning your meal schedule, check what you have in the freezer, pantry, and fridge first. When scouting for recipes online, you may need to dash off to the store to buy all your ingredients. But what about the ingredients you already have in your fridge or pantry that may be expiring soon? Instead, look for a recipe that calls for ingredients you already have on hand. This is a great way to save money, time, and reduce any wastage.
You Don’t Have To Make Everything From Scratch
Meal planning doesn’t mean you have to quit your job and become a full-time Martha Stewart! As we mentioned before, your meal plan should fit in with your schedule and not the other way around. There is absolutely no shame in buying pre-made pasta, bread, rotisserie chicken, or pre-sliced veggies. As long as it is healthy and you aren’t reaching for the preservative loaded cans of pasta sauce or soup, there is no reason why you can’t cut a few corners when it comes to your meal prep.
Make A Grocery List While You Plan
When you are scouting for fun recipes or drawing inspiration from a few of your trusted favorites, create a list of all the ingredients you need at the same time. This will help save you a ton of effort and you won’t need to make multiple trips to the store either. When you have everything you need written down, head to the shop, and get it all at once. Doing this will also help with sticking to the meal plan instead of walking around the shop aimlessly and filling your basket with unhealthy or unnecessary products. Be sure to take stock of your pantry before heading to the store to eliminate any food waste. It also helps to stock your pantry with healthy staples in case you need to whip up something for dinner on those extremely busy days.
Use technology to your advantage! There are so many recipes online it can get a bit overwhelming when it comes to keeping track of them. The same can be said for recipe books. Instead of trying to remember handy websites or the name of a recipe, make a note of everything you want to try using a meal planner app or a simple Excel spreadsheet. Here you can save links and page numbers of all the recipes you want to try without searching through your browser history.
Another handy tip is to make a list of all the recipes you have already made. This is a great way to find some inspiration when you are drawing a blank for the next week’s dinner schedule. It is also a great way to keep track of all the meals you enjoyed and what recipes were a total flop.
Keep The Weather In Mind
Another useful tip is to check the weather in advance. There is nothing worse than planning hearty meals like soup and stew only to find that the weather is far too warm to actually enjoy them. Use a weather app to keep an eye on the predictions for the week. On warmer days opt for light meals like stir fry or chicken parmesan; and for those cooler days opt for heavier meals like curries, casseroles, or soups.
Invest In An Instant Pot
If you are not familiar with this handy kitchen tool, an Instant Pot is a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, and steamer all rolled into one! Investing in this handy tool will help make life easier especially when you don’t have time to stand over a stove for hours. Plus, there are thousands of Instant Pot recipes available online!
Ask For Advice
There is no doubt that finding inspiration for meals in the coming weeks can be a bit of a challenge especially when you are cooking for a family – but use them to your advantage. If you are cooking for a family, don’t be shy to ask for some suggestions. When you are doing your meal prep for the week, ask your kids to help slice and dice some of the vegetables you will be using. It’s a great way to get things done quickly and the extra bonding time is an added bonus.
If you are only cooking for one, ask your friends to send you some of their favorite recipes and tips. Who knows, this may be the perfect opportunity to start your very own meal planning club with a few of your friends and family.
It’s OK To Cheat
While you may have spent all this energy and effort planning, stocking the pantry, and getting organized, it is also important to know that nothing is set in stone. It is ok to cheat every now and then. On those days when you want to come home, put on a sweatshirt and just lounge on the couch don’t beat yourself up about ordering that pizza. You are only human and considering how busy schedules can get, sometimes you just need to treat yourself to a night in with the family huddled over some good old comfort food.
At the end of the day, all that matters is that you make healthier food choices for most of the week. And remember, don’t feel too pressured to fit someone else’s meal plan into your already stressful and busy schedule. When you have gotten into the swing of things, you’ll come to learn what works for you and your lifestyle.