Meal Planning 101
One of the best things you can do to eat healthier is to create a meal plan. Think of a meal plan as your road map to what foods you'll buy, cook, and eat. Creating a meal plan will help you stay organized in the kitchen, maintain a food budget, and know exactly “What's for Dinner?”. Let me share some meal planning 101 tips that have helped me and will help you to create a meal plan too.
Decide on a Plan
How often do you want to plan your meals? Once a week, twice a month, once a month, etc.? Weekly meal plans work best for my family. I'll sit down over the weekend and plan out all the meals for the upcoming week based on what's on sale, what I have on hand, and what we want to eat.
Which meals are you planning? Are you planning all your meals and snacks? No one says you have to plan it all. I only plan out dinner for my family. It's the one meal that without a plan will get me stressed; resulting in dinner out.
Get Out Your Calendar
The next step to meal planning is to look at what you have going on for the week. Do you have any late night meetings or practices? Any days where you won't have a lot of night to cook? Sit down with this Weekly meal planner template or a sheet of paper and decide which days you can carve out time to cook big meals or if you'll need several quick and easy recipes.
Decide What Recipes You Want to Make
This is where you can get creative. You have taken a look at the week's events and decided what meals you need to plan for. Now the next question is what do you want to eat. You can stick with tried and true family favorite recipes or you could get adventurous and get out cookbooks and magazines, or head to Pinterest for inspiration.
It helps to have a large collection of recipes to choose from. I have a recipe binder filled with magazine clippings and old family recipes. I'm always reading thru cookbooks looking for new ideas too. I try to add one new recipe a week. It makes things fun but doesn't stress me out.
There are tons of apps and programs out there too to help get a recipe collection together for you. You're sure to find something you like.
Assemble Your Meal Plan and Print It Out
Plug in your recipes to your calendar or this Weekly meal planner template. Plan on quick and easy meals or crock pot recipes for busy days when you won't have a lot of time to cook. Plan on bigger more elaborate meals as time allows, perhaps on the weekends. There is no right or wrong way to do this.
If you need help deciding, consider theme nights. You can designate certain days by a particular theme like Taco Tuesday, Pizza Friday, or Breakfast for Dinner Night. All three of these are popular in our house. Other ideas may include a pasta night, Meatless Monday, Leftovers Night, Soup and Salad Night, etc.
Make Meal Planning a Habit
Meal planning is a great tool to help you eat healthy. It helps you plan out your meals, your grocery lists, and more. The hardest part for me was starting out. Just like any habit, it needs time to develop. Stay with it and it will soon become second nature. A meal plan isn't a strict itinerary, but a road map to eating better and living a healthier life.
Be sure to check out my weekly & monthly meal plans too! Every meal plan published on Little Family Adventure can be found there.
Have tips to share on meal planning? Please share them with us in the comments.