When it comes to meal planning, a little bit of prep can go a long way! If you’re like me, there’s no way I could eat the same every day so my tips take a more realistic approach to meal planning! I suggest being honest with yourself and cutting yourself some slack. I think it’s better to prep for healthy eating than to buy a bunch of healthy food that goes to waste in your fridge. Mix in healthy snacks and meal delivery plans like Snap Kitchen or Prep To Your Door for lunches, pick a healthy spot for dinner with the gals and then once you’ve narrowed it down, pick one or two nights a week to make a healthy meal! Here are a few realistic tips for meal planning like a pro!
Meal Planning Like A Pro
To me, meal planning is really about just being honest with yourself about your habits and how to make small changes that will save calories and some cash! On weeks where I know I have lots of events or will be out a lot, I won’t plan a big meal at home but rather get some pre-prepped ingredients so I can quickly put together a salad or soup. I always allow myself a little treat too! Maybe it’s a bottle of wine or pint of ice cream or some indulgent crackers. If I have something yummy to look forward to, then I’m WAY less likely to give up on all my healthy goals and go out for tex-mex. Which that definitely still happens but it happens less often when I allow a little wiggle room in my diet and meal planning.
1. Look at your calendar for the week– Take a look at your calendar and be honest with yourself about your schedule and time commitments! Do you have a birthday dinner on Thursday? Drinks with a friend on Tuesday and an early yoga class on Friday? Be sure to take in consideration what you already have going on before you head to the store. This will help you be realistic about how many meals you are actually going to need to make! This will save time and money, not to mention cut down on food waste.
2. Leftovers– What can you make that you’d like to eat for leftovers the next day at lunch or for a quick dinner? Certain meals lend themselves really well to leftovers (hello spicy red sauce) and others are best fresh like salads and fish dishes.
3. Reuse Ingredients– This is a great way to eat seasonally! You might buy a whole bunch of cilantro but how much do you actually need for your recipe? What is another recipe you can use it in? Maybe you use cilantro to make a salad dressing and the rest of it in a salsa you can have for snacks! Make this Strawberry and Spinach Salad for dinner and use the remaining produce in smoothies and overnight oat bowls throughout the week to make the most of your grocery trip!
4. Time Savers- I love chopping vegetables but have you ever cut up a butternut squash? It’s not the easiest. If you’re planning ahead you can spend a little extra on pre-prepped ingredients like zoodles and chopped up butternut squash and cut the onions, tomatoes and carrots yourself. Then you’ll get the satisfaction of contributing a little to cooking your meal without spending hours in the kitchen each night.
5. Gather Up Your Recipes and Read Them- You should always be sure to read recipes ALL the way through before you plan your weekly meals. This takes a little extra time on the front but will save tons later. I can’t tell you how many times people (and I’m totally guilty of this too) haven’t read the recipe all the way through only to find out later they needed to thaw and marinate that meat or the rice dish actually needs to cook for two hours not 30 minutes, etc. etc. Save yourself some time and read all the recipes you choose first. Then you can choose one challenging recipe for the week and make the rest easy! Then you’re more likely to actually cook if you know you’ll be successful.
6. Prepping For The Week- I always try and do a little extra prep on Sunday or Monday to set myself up for the week. That might mean taking the grapes out of the bag, washing them and putting them in a bowl in the fridge for easy snacking. If I am chopping onion for my recipe on Sunday night, I will go ahead and chop extra for Tuesday’s meal. Even just prepping a few things ahead of time can make cooking easier throughout the week.
7. Don’t Over Commit- Be honest with yourself. If you never cook dinner, don’t say you’re going to make five meals this week. Start with one big meal that you can have leftovers, then see how that goes. You probably don’t need five apples, six bananas, a watermelon and a bag of cuties for the week unless you are feeding a small army. I like to try different fruits each week that are on sale (aka in season) but I realistically know that I will only eat fruit two or three times a week for a snack. The other days I might want hummus and veggies or cheese and crackers. I know some days I will have to get up early and be on the go for meetings, so I know I won’t be at home to make coffee and a smoothies. Instead, I will buy bars and coldbrew to make it easier on myself to take a healthy (and cheaper!) option rather than stop somewhere for breakfast tacos between meetings.
Did I miss any? What your hacks for meal planning?