Meal planning. You may have overheard the soccer mom mafia talk about it or maybe come across a mouth watering photo montage of meat and veggies on Pinterest. Either way, meal planning is a thing, and it’s a nifty game changer at that, once you’ve mastered it.
Meal Planning is the fundamental organization of planning, prepping and preparing meals for yourself or family over a set period of time.
For this article, we’re shooting for one week of dinners (that’s 7 meals for you non-hobbit folk). Below are the Do’s and Dont’s of Meal Planning at its finest, with a few savory loop holes and shortcuts added for good measure.
1. Know what you want to eat.
Perhaps the hardest part of Meal Planning is actually knowing what you want to eat. Not so much specific meals themselves, but rather what kind of food tickles your fancy pallete. Dietary restrictions come into play; you’re crushing that new diet but don’t know how meal planning will play into that. Perhaps you have picky eaters in your party, or maybe you’re the sole vegan amongst a clan of carnivores. Whatever the culinary case is, meal planning can still work for you. Get a feel for your appetite and go from there.
2. Pick your plan and stick to it.
You know what ‘kind’ of food you want to eat but now it’s time to set the stones. Blueprint your plan with a calendar. Snag a page from that random planner in the junk drawer and identify your meal plan days. Typical meal plans start with seven days, but any plan is adaptable and can go to ten, two weeks, even a month if you’re a real go-getter meal planning master, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
3. Formulate a budget.
You’re the boss of the budget, so we can’t help you there. Although if you want to learn how to eat, say ‘organic on a budget’ we have an article for that too. Come up with what is comfortable for the wallet and the pallete. Keep in mind, cheap food ‘is’ less expensive, but aim for eating healthy on a budget. Greener food and cleaner ingredients make for a much cheaper bill compared to takeout and fast food in the long run, so stay loyal to the produce aisle. Once you’ve allocated the budget with what kind of diet and how long, then the fun starts. Picking the food and of course, shopping.
4. Make a mock menu.
Whether it’s your favorite cookbook that’s been catching a little more dust than action, or your favorite recipes you pinned, jot down what sounds delicious while keeping it reasonable. Escargot may sound scrumptious, but where exactly does one find snails at Target? See my point. Stay realistic in both your cravings and your time. Overwhelming the plate (literally and figuratively) will get you nowhere in your meal planning venture. After picking your precious menu that is sure to please the whole crowd (even if it’s just you and your cat), dissect them. Tear apart those soufflé-for-Dummies, one-pot-crockpot, and 30-minute meals so you have the bare ingredients listed out for easy analyzing.
5. Get in and get out.
Everyone is guilty of running to the grocery store for that last minute bread or milk and walking out with a cart full of goods with a new litter box, when there is no cat. Keep your head in the game when you walk into that grocer with list in hand and stay true to your new meal plan. Many find it easiest to semi-separate the list into ‘categories’ of food or ingredients, making streamlining the aisles easy breezy while lowering the risk of sneaky distractions like the clearance end cap. Once the items have been wrangled in their reusable grocery bags that you remembered because you’re awesome, head home and get ready to win this meal planning game.
6. Execute, with wiggle room.
The goods are there, the recipes are ready, the meals are waiting to be prepped, and you my friend are the coach in this Supper Super Bowl. Stay reasonable of course, because after all, life happens. Random sickness occurs, baseball practice runs late, or someone works overtime; so leave yourself a little room to wiggle around said obstacles. Have at least one of your meals on your menu be the go-to quick fix meal. Personal pizzas perhaps? (A great recipe here) Keep your backup easy meal in your arsenal for those nights where meal planning is too much hassle (though the brunt of the work is already gone).
There you have it. Meal planning like a boss in 6 easy steps. Need some awesome recipes for your new meal planning menu now? Oh goody, we have those too!