Here are some tips to help you become a meal planning professional.
Look At the Week Ahead
When it comes to meal planning, it's important to see what activities your week ahead will include. Perhaps your child has an after-school activity or you plan to work late to meet a deadline. Since busier days can often lead to choosing quick and easy fast-food meals, plan to cook larger portions earlier in the week and put away some for leftovers. Planning for no-cook meals such as wraps or salads, which only take a few minutes, is another healthy alternative to fast food.
Find Recipe Inspiration
It can be easy to get stuck in a rut with cooking. Many of us have old standby meals in our weekly rotation. To liven up your cooking, search ahead for new recipes to try. You can print them out and organize them in a recipe book or look to sites like Pinterest where you can save and share recipes online. If you are short on time, look for recipes that involve little preparation, short cooking times, or even use the help of a slow cooker.
Map It Out
Whether you prefer to use a calendar on your phone or just simply pen and paper, it is important to write out the meals you plan to make for the week. Label your meals Monday through Sunday and be sure to include days you plan to eat out. If you struggle with eating healthy at lunch, you might want to consider making a meal plan for your lunches for the upcoming week as well. It is much easier to stick with your meals for the week when you have them organized.
Make Your Grocery List
How many times have you gone to the grocery store more than once in a week because you had forgotten to pick up a certain ingredient or needed to pick up dinner for that night? Since our time is valuable, planning out an in-depth grocery list will save you in the long run. First, check what you have at home. Are there certain staples that you need to restock or already own? Next, look at your dinner recipes and decide what ingredients you will need. Make sure to pick up healthy snacks to have at home along with your regular staples whether it be milk, coffee, or bread. The majority of your list should include whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, grains and nuts.
Prep All At Once
When you arrive home from the grocery store and are starting to put everything away, use this time to prep your food for the week as well. If you need chopped vegetables for a dish that night as well as later in the week, why not use just the one cutting board and do it all at once? If you plan to make chicken, cook up extra to use for salads, wraps, or sandwiches later on. By doing the prep ahead, it will save you time during your busy week.
Kristen Bourque, RD, LD has been writing health-related articles since 2000. Her nutrition articles and recipes have been featured in "Today's Dietitian" as well as the Canadian magazine "Glow". Kristen combines her love of nutrition with cooking on her personal blog, Swanky Dietitian.