Meal planning is a great tool to help you achieve your nutrition goals because it helps you:
- Eat healthy
- Manage portion sizes
- Helps avoid wasting of food
- Saves time
- Saves money
Like any new habit, menu planning gets easier with practice. Over time, you’ll figure out ways to make the process work for you. In the meantime, here are some top tips for meal planning:
- Menu planning doesn’t have to be complicated. Begin by writing down some of your favorite meals. (And if you are cooking for a family, ask them to suggest menu ideas as well.) You can also look on places like Pinterest, in cookbooks, or on recipe websites. You can even find sample menus and menu-planning apps online.
- Plan one week of meals at a time, including side dishes, entrees and some healthy desserts. Some things to consider as you contemplate menu options:
- Check your calendar for what nights you’ll have time to cook and what nights you’ll only have time to reheat leftovers.
- Look at what is on sale this week at the supermarket.
- Look in your pantry – you might find the starting point for any number of healthy meals there.
- Think seasonal – what fresh produce is available this time of year? Is it salad season or soup weather?
- Keep the menu interesting by planning some meatless meals, substituting a breakfast for a dinner, using alternate new recipes as well as some old favorites.
- Play with menu themes to make meal planning fun for the whole family. You don’t have to start from scratch every week. You could make Mondays “Pasta Night” and Thursdays could be “Chicken Night”. Plan to try new recipes on these nights to mix things up!
- Have a plan for your leftovers. That extra pasta from Monday could be reheated for lunch on Tuesday. Leftover chicken from Thursday might get added on top of a salad, fill a sandwich, or added to a soup on the weekend.
- Recycle your meal plans. Don’t throw away your menu plan at the end of the week. Instead, make note of what you liked best about it and then hold on to it and reuse it later.
- Remember, your menu isn’t written in stone. You can swap things around or designate one night as “cook’s choice” and use that night to clear out the refrigerator by making omelets, a casserole, stir-fry or chef salad.
- Use your menu plan to create a shopping list of the ingredients you’ll need.
- Consider batch cooking. Set aside one day to prepare all your meals so they are ready on a moment’s notice. This is especially helpful if you have a busy or chaotic schedule.
To help keep you on track for planning your meals throughout the week, try this weekly meal planner! Happy planning!