10 Steps to Planning Your Meals
I'm sure you've read or heard the advice to plan your meals. It can help you save money, save time, lose weight and simplify your week.
What is meal planning? Well, meals are food. I know that's obvious, right, but which meals?
Are you going to plan all of your meals? Sure, if that's what you want. You can also plan just your dinners or start with lunches during the work week. I'd suggest starting with one meal (or snack) that can make the biggest difference for you. For me, it's dinners. Dinners become lunches the next day. Dinner is the time that our family routinely is in one location at the same time. But breakfasts can be challenging to get the right mix to fuel your day as you rush out the door in the morning for work; you might start there. Don't forget your snacks. If you plan your snacks, you're more likely to eat healthier and cheaper and end up with more energy.
The next part is planning. I like the Miriam-Webster's (dictionary iPhone app) definition of plans as "a method to achieving an end." And isn't that the whole reason to change your habits and create powerful (but simple) routines? To set you up for success to achieve your goals.
Why do you want to plan your meals? Other than the fact that 'everyone' seems to be telling you to do it...why do you want to plan your meals?
Is it to save money? What will you do with that money? Pay the mortgage or go on a dream vacation?
Is it to manage your time better? What will you do with that extra time? Will you take time for yourself, organize your closet, read a book, build your business, or simply enjoy time with your family?
Is it to lose weight? You will want to make those meals enjoyable and meal planning a permanent change, not just a onetime activity this month.
Now that you've established the 'why' of meal planning use the 10 steps below to help you plan your meals this week.
10 Steps to Planning Your Meals
Keep it simple. Try using the old-fashioned application of pen to paper. I've tried several apps and software programs over the years, and ultimately it took too much time to set up, there was always something I wanted to do differently, and eventually, there was a hitch in seeing my plan or creating my shopping list. If you're already using an app or software and it's working for you, keep going and let me know what you're using. If you aren't meal planning now, start with paper.
Make it a routine. Create your plan on the same day of the week, even at the same general time of day. Decide whether you're planning for the week or just the next four days. The more consistent you are the easier it will be to continue. We routinely plan on Saturday for the whole week.
List the days you're planning.
Look at your schedule for the week and record meal ideas next to each day.
Are there any days you'll be later than usual? Make those slow cooker days or your favorite throw-it-together meals. Pull out your appliances that help make cooking easier and faster, especially the ones you don't have to watch (slow cooker, pressure cookers, rice cookers, George Foreman grills, and of course, your microwave). Even the cook and hold feature on your oven can allow you the freedom to do other things while dinner is cooking.)
Any special occasions or get together with friends? Put those down because you might need to add something to your shopping list to take with you.
Do you have any set days? Friday is always pizza and a movie night for us.
Now decide what to cook.
Check your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry. Anything there to use as your main ingredients?
Check what's on sale and start with those as your main ingredients.
Pull out your recipes. Again look for the slow cooker recipes or the quick-n-healthy ones. If you collect recipes, try a new one and see if it's a keeper or not, but assign it for a day you're not rushed. See below for an easier way to organize your recipes for meal planning.
Any favorites you've been wanting?
Make a shopping list of all the meal ingredients you don't have on hand. This is the place I've found high-tech useful if it's kept simple, but paper and pencil work just fine. Just remember to put the list where you'll find it when you go shopping. If nothing else, take a picture of it on your cell phone so you have a backup list if needed.
Post your meal plan on your refrigerator or somewhere you can
see it when you get home and are hungry and tired. Your plan saves you time and energy wondering what to have.
Go shopping for what's on your list.
When you're back home from shopping, pull everything out of your bags and boxes and put them away. See Organizing Your Kitchen Pantry.
Enjoy the freedom of having a plan and remember it is flexible if circumstances change. The plan is more a guideline than a rule.
Need help organizing your recipes? Check out Organize Your Recipes (As-Is) and use them today instead of waiting for 'someday' to organize your recipes perfectly.