Meal planning makes healthy eating much more feasible, but you need to know how to meal plan in order to do it effectively. Meal planning can help you manage you time, budget, and calories more efficiently. I know it can be intimidating and overwhelming at first. To get you started on how to meal plan, try these simple tips that anyone can do.
1. Make a List
One of the first things to do when learning how to meal plan is to make a list of your dinner foods that your family typically eats. This can prevent you buying a bunch of things at the store you either don’t need or won’t use, and can also help reduce your spend on groceries. This is one of the first things you should do to meal plan effectively. If you’d like to meal plan for lunch and breakfast too, make lists for those meals as well as snacks your family eats.
Next, go shopping! Stick to the list you made and avoid adding items. Since they aren’t on the list, they likely don’t fit into your meal plan. This can also prevent you from buying unhealthy snacks, or impulse buys that you really don’t need. If you see a buy one get one free item, it’s a good idea to pick up that item if it’s something on your list.
Next, when you get home, place your list of meals on the fridge so you have an easy view of them all week. Each night you’ll know what you’ll be fixing and be assured you have the ingredients. This can help eliminate calling out for pizza out of lack of inspiration to cook, or because it appears you don’t have anything in the house to cook.
4. Meal Prep
It’s also a good idea to meal prep for the week if you can. Even a little bit makes a huge difference. As soon as you get home from the store, go ahead and chop up some fresh veggies for snacks, along with washing any fruits or vegetables to place in the crisper. This will make you more likely to eat these foods and reach for them when you need a snack, rather than letting them go bad in the fridge. Also, prepare a couple of dinners and breakfasts for the next few days. This is a great thing to do on Sundays, and once more during the middle of the week if you can. Just one hour will make a huge difference when it comes to meal prep. If you need some tips for how to do this, visit one of my favorite blogs, The Lean Green Bean. Lindsay, the writer of the blog, has some amazing tips that anyone could benefit from and use in their home. You can find her at: theleangreenbean.com.
5. Find Inspiration
It’s never a bad idea to get a little inspiration from others when it comes to meal planning. Ask your friends and family who meal prep, or visit a few blogs. You’d be surprised what kind of great tips you’ll find online that will serve as inspiration. Anyone just starting out can highly benefit from this one single tip alone. Inspiration is a powerful motivator and a great learning tool.
6. Keep It Simple
When you first start meal planning, it’s probably best to keep things simple. Don’t get in over your head, which is easy to do at first out of excitement and zeal, or because you’re trying to do it exactly like someone more experienced. Keep your meals simple at first instead of trying lots of new recipes. Stick to the basic meals your family likes in the beginning, and the once you get the hang of things, you can branch out to new recipes.
7. Take It Week by Week
Many people meal plan for the month. I don’t suggest you start out doing this when you’re new to it. It can be extremely overwhelming, and really isn’t necessary in the beginning. Keep your meals simple, and just take it week by week. It only takes about one hour to make out a meal plan for all seven days worth of meals and snacks, and can easily be done on a lunch break or a lazy Sunday afternoon.
If you’re a meal planner pro, I’d love to hear from you! What tips do you have for newbies to meal planning, and what helped you most in the beginning? If you don’t meal plan, have you ever considered starting?