Meal planning is a great way to save time, money and calories. Planning nutritious snacks and meals ahead of time will help you stay on track with your health goals. There is no one size fits all formula for meal planning. Everyone is different in their approach to meal planning. Some people love to sit down and flip through cookbooks and magazines, while others like to find inspiration online or while shopping at their local farmer’s market. Whatever your meal planning style may be, having a plan in place removes the stress of scrambling to figure out what to make for dinner when you’re tired and hungry. (a.k.a. “hangry.”)
1. Find some mouth watering recipes
Set aside time each week to find some new recipes you’d like to try. Dig out some old family favourites. While looking for recipes, keep variety in mind. Eating a wide variety of different foods will provide you with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Oh, and don’t make looking for recipes a “chore.” Make yourself a cup of tea, put on your favourite music, sit down, relax and enjoy the search!
2. Ask for input
If you are not the only one you’re cooking for, ask family members for suggestions. My kids often remind me about family favourite recipes that I haven’t made for a long time. Salmon burgers are definitely a favouite!
3. Organize your recipes
Find a simple way to save and organize your recipes. If you find most of your recipes online, you might want to create a file on your computer. An app that I like to use is www.plantoeat.com This lets me save recipes that I find online and it automatically categorizes the recipes. It also gives the option for generating a meal plan and extracting the ingredients from the selected recipes to generate a grocery list. You may prefer to print copies of your favourite recipes and keep them in a binder. Do whatever works best for you.
4. Use a calendar
Take a look at your calendar for the upcoming week. If you know you are going to be working late one evening, this might be a good night for a slow cooker meal, so it’s ready to eat when you get home.
5. Try theme nights
This is a helpful way of adding some variety to the week. Ideas such as Pasta Night, Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Barbecue Night, Slow Cooker Night or Fish Friday can be helpful when it comes to planning different meals.
6. Plan for leftovers
I regularly cook more than we need so there will be leftovers for lunch the next day. Save time; cook once, eat twice! When I’m making a soup or a casserole dish that freezes well, I’ll often double the recipe to put some away in the freezer.
7. Make your shopping list
Look at the meals you have planned out for the week and write up your shopping list. Check your fridge, freezer and pantry to avoid buying duplicates of any items.
8. Eat before you shop
Never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. You will end up buying many things you don’t actually need (chips, cookies, ice cream).
9. Shop with a mission
With your list in hand, head to the store and get everything you need. Stick to your list. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and only go down the centre aisles for something on your list, such as pasta sauce or chickpeas.
10. Prep food once you’re home
To save time on busy weeknights, wash and cut some of your vegetables ahead of time. Prepare some snacks for the week. Place nuts & seeds in snack size containers. Prepare snack size servings of hummus and veggie sticks. Hard boil some eggs.
Bonus Tip: Look ahead
At the end of each day, look ahead to the following day. What do you have planned? Do you need to pull something out of the freezer? Is there anything you can prep the night before to save time? I like to save time on busy mornings, so I often prepare freezer smoothie packs, overnight oats or breakfast chia puddings the night before.
Let me know in the comments below what your favourite meal planning strategies are.
For more tips, recipes and nutrition information, come visit me on Peak Result’s Nutrition facebook page.
Yours in health,
LeeAnn Cruz, CNP