Learning how to meal plan using my tried-and-true EASY method, may be one of the best things you can do for your health AND your wallet. Bold statement, I know, but true.
If you’ve been on the fence about meal planning, or think it’s something only super organized people do (definitely NOT me), this post is just what you need! Before we dig in to the “how” of meal planning, let’s chat about the “why”.
5 Benefits of Meal Planning
No. 1 Save Time
Yes. You’ll have to spend time to save time. But, by taking a little time each week to put your plan together, you’ll avoid last minute trips to the grocery store, and, most importantly, you’ll save MENTAL time not thinking about what to make for dinner each night.
No. 2 Spend Less (Save $$$!)
Another big benefit, is all the money you save by not eating out as much and not buying groceries you don’t need. Which leads me to benefit #3…
No. 3 Be Kinder to the Environment
It’s a great way to cut back on food waste-something I’m personally working on. I know when I plan my meals around what I already have in my fridge, I definitely throw out less food each week. The upside? Reduced methane emissions and conservation of energy and resources. Win, win!
No. 4 Stress Less:
This goes hand in hand with #1. Honestly, saving mental time not thinking about what to make/eat for dinner each night is a huge one for me!
No. 5 Eat Healthier (BE Healthier!)
Naturally, being a dietitian, I couldn’t leave out this very important benefit. Wink, wink. While I’m sure you’ve heard this before, there’s alot of good research on the health benefits of preparing more meals at home.
This includes eating smaller portions (and fewer calories), having control over ingredient quality, eating more fruits and vegetables, and eating less sugar and salt.
I don’t know about you, but I’m much more likely to succumb to the French Fries (or a glass of wine) when I’m eating out. You too???
Now that you know all the reasons to meal plan, let’s talk about the logistics of it. I’ve got some great ideas I think you’re going to love!
How to Meal Plan (The Easy Way)
EASY MEAL PLANNING TIPS
- Decide if you will plan all meals or dinners only.
This first step is totally up to you! I personally like to plan my dinners only. For breakfast, I have a few basic meals I stick with, and I try and eat leftovers for lunch, so all I need to plan are dinners.
You may be different. If you struggle with eating a nourishing (i.e. high protein) breakfast, or snacking in-between meals because you don’t eat lunch, you may decide to plan all your meals out.
Not sure where to start? Try it both ways and see what you like best!
- Pick 1 day each week (or month) to meal plan.
Schedule one day each week to plan your meals. This should take anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on if you’re planning for just the week, or the entire month.
Schedule time in your planner & be consistent each week to get all the benefits of meal planning: saving money and time; stressing less; being kinder to the environment; and eating healthier.
- Review what food (and equipment) you have on hand.
Before you plan your meals or dinners for the week, it’s really important to review all the food you already have on hand. This includes food in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.
In addition, know what kitchen equipment you have on hand. It’s no fun planning a delicious sheet pan dinner only to discover your sheet pan is missing at 7:00 at night!
- Decide How May Dinners You Need to Plan Each Week
If you’re planning out dinners only, like I do, decide how many meals you will prepare, and how many you will eat out (or order in). My goal each week is to prepare 5 dinners at home. What’s yours?
- Find Inspiration for Your Weekly Meal Plan
You may already have some tried and true “no recipe” dinner ideas. I try and include at least one SUPER easy dinner each week.
For other meal ideas, consult your favorite cookbooks, Pinterest, and recipes you’ve torn out of magazines. You can also keep some healthy ready-to-eat meals in your freezer-fast food can be healthy too! (Related: 45 Healthy Freezer Meals to Help You Reclaim Dinner Time)
- Try and plan a variety of dinners/meals each week.
I keep my Easy Guide to Meal Planning sheet (available below) on the inside of my pantry for inspiration. On it, I’ve listed different cuisines (i.e. Asian, Italian, etc) along with different meal themes (i.e. Taco Tuesday, Soup and Salad Night, Stir Fry Night, etc).
This is a fun and easy way to find dinner inspiration each week!
- Make a list of “5 Easy Meals Everyone Loves”
Last but not least, write down 5 (or more) easy meals everyone in your family loves.
For my family this includes: grilled cheese and tomato soup; pasta with pesto (homemade or store bought) & fresh fruit; lentil tacos with avocado feta guacamole; a big ol’ salad with my Best Ever Cheese Rolls; and breakfast for dinner! What are yours???
- Make your list and go grocery shopping!
Last but not least, once you’ve perused your pantry and created your meal plan, it’s time to create a grocery list and go to the store. Or, you can always order your groceries in. The choice is yours!
Are you ready to put your new skills into practice? Awesome!!! You’ll become a pro in no time at all with my ultimate EASY meal planning kit!
P.S. Look at all the awesome tools you get so you can start saving time and money, reduce stress (yes!!!), and start eating healthier today!