One of the biggest challenges for my clients seems to be meal planning. I feel like when I ask how meal planning is going I get an audible sigh and not a real, ‘want to’ answer. I decided to outline what we do in our house to help others feel a little motivated or inspired. Meal planning is one of the biggest ways to lose weight and to save money. A lot less wasted food!
For me, with all my food issues, I need to have a meal plan. The plan outlined below comes out of complete necessity since running to grab take out can be difficult and, well, boring when left with just a few choices. Also, I love having my lunches already taken care of for the next day.
If you are new to meal planning, start with just dinners. Make enough dinner so that you have leftovers for lunch the next day. This makes it way easier to make two meals in one. Also the key to be successful when starting out is to pick meals you like and that are not hard to make.
With that I’ll leave you with how I plan each week.
Steps to Meal Planning:
Take inventory of what you already have: This step is easy enough. Grab a piece of notepaper and pen and start with your refrigerator. Make note of everything that can still be used and toss the rest.
Next move to your freezer. Usually my freezer is full of meats and frozen veggies. We order from Butcher Box which helps to simplify my life a little. I usually take note what I have at the end of each month since I am going to order at the beginning of each month.
Pantry is last. Make note of rice, pasta, beans, etc. The usual pantry things:)
Next up is finding recipes you want to make. I have a couple of requirements when choosing recipes:
- Leftovers. The recipe has to make enough leftover for lunch the next day.
- Simplicity. I always have a couple of recipes that are easy to make. Especially on nights I have to work late. These usually include the instant pot, the grill, or the crockpot.
- New recipe every week. For me I get bored very easily. Especially with food. I have a binder for just new recipes that I have found on instagram or NY times cooking website. This way I can pull out the binder and see what new recipe I want to try and match it up with what I have in the house.
- Matching Ingredients: I try to match ingredients so that I’m not wasting food. For example if I have to make a soup that requires a half of can of coconut milk then I try to have another recipe picked out that will use up that half can of coconut milk. Usually I’ll make a dairy free ranch to go with a salad that week.
After taking inventory and grabbing a couple of recipes I then look at my calendar. My busiest work days are Mondays and Thursdays so in general I plan a recipe that Jason can make. For example, sausage and pasta (zoodles) or Hamburgers + salad or a defrosted previously made soup. Crockpot and Instant Pot recipes also go well here.
I plan for newer recipes to be tried on Saturday or Sunday. I prefer these weekend meals to make a lot. In order for those to be used throughout the week or frozen for a later “easy” day. The other days of week I use my standby recipes.
For us, I write out what we are eating on our kitchen calendar. This saves me from having to answer the favorite question in my house. What’s for dinner? Plus if I can’t make it home or forgot to take the meat out for dinner, Jason can easily see what we need.
Now comes the time to shop! We often go to 2 or 3 stores depending on what we need for the coming week. I make a list for each shop with amounts. To make it a little easier on myself or Jason I try to divide it up into the sections of the store. This part is pretty easy since I have all the recipes laid out and the inventory from the house.
I usually plan and take inventory on Friday evenings. Shop on Saturdays and cook/prep on Sunday. It may sound like a lot of work but it saves me time to not have to think about what to eat each day and I know it will be healthy.
For a lot of people I understand this can feel overwhelming. This is where those habits we keep talking about come into play. At first it seems hard and you don’t want to do it but then after a little practice it becomes second nature. If you want to learn more make sure to join us for Habitual Fix our 6 week Nutrition challenge where we spend an entire week talking about the ins and outs of meal planning.