Meal planning may seem like a treacherous, arduous task that feels so far out of your realm of organization. Well, we’re here to tell you, you can do it! In fact, not only can you do it, there are some great benefits to meal planning that you may not even realize.
What is Meal Planning?
First, let’s define meal planning: it’s the act of deciding what to serve for dinners (or other meals too) for a period of time (say a week) and then shopping and prepping for those meals in advance in order to save time later. If this already seems too complicated, don’t give up yet. It’s really not that hard.
The Benefits of Meal Planning
Meal planning has some terrific benefits for you and your family. First, it saves you time when you need it most, like on weeknights when you’re getting home from work and other activities and need to get dinner on the table stat. You can prep meals on the weekends or earlier in the day if you have time, and then complete the meal right before you’re ready to serve it. You can involve your spouse and kids in the prep process by soliciting help chopping veggies, portioning foods into nightly containers and creating a meal calendar.
In addition to saving time and spending time with your loved ones, meal planning usually results in a healthier diet. Rather than finding whatever you can in the fridge or eating out, you can ensure you and your family have wholesome meals ready-to-go every night. Those panicked “I don’t know what we’re doing for dinner” moments can lead to unhealthy choices and unbalanced meals. Don’t let it happen to you – partake in meal planning.
How to Go About Meal Planning
Here are some simple steps to make meal planning work for you:
- Create a calendar where you map out what you’re serving each night. Select recipes if necessary. Consider having themes to make the brainstorming easier such as Mediterranean Mondays or Chill with the Grill Saturdays. Be sure to save one night for leftovers, which you can serve in their original form or create an all new dish with minimal effort, like chicken salad from a baked chicken or fajitas from leftover steak and veggies.
- Make a shopping list based on the meals you’ve selected and purchase all the foods.
- Chop your veggies and proteins and portion them for each meal. Consider using the most perishable items earlier in the week. Also make some items that will keep, such as rice and pasta that can be part of a main dish or sides.
- Make one full meal that is ready to go for early in the week and make one meal to freeze for when you need something fast and easy.
- Each night before meal time, simply grab the stored food and cook it. Keep things simple by selecting one-pan meals or dishes that have very few steps. While dinner is on the stove or in the oven, you can spend precious time doing whatever else needs to be done in your house.
Meal planning is a great way to save time, enjoy healthy meals and not feel flustered at the end of every day. With just a few steps you can get yourself organized and on track for productive meal planning.
Sources: Woman’s Day and Wellness Mama