Whether you’ve got a troop to feed or just yourself, meal planning saves money and time throughout the week. It is also essential for developing a grocery list that will help you stick to your goals, whether that includes performance enhancement, weight loss, general healthy eating or some combination thereof. Here are a few tips on making a winning meal plan that you can actually stick to throughout the week.
1. Start with what you have. Take a good look in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. What do you have now that you could incorporate into next week’s plan?
2. Be organized. Organize your list into protein foods, starches, and non-starchy vegetables. Make three separate columns so you can easily see what you have in each category.
3. Start planning. Now it’s time for the fun part; begin by writing down meal ideas using what you have. As you go you can begin making a grocery list of items you need to shop for to make complete meals.
4. Plan enough meals. It’s best to plan at least 2-3 breakfast options, 3-4 lunch ideas, and at least 5 solid dinner meals.
5. Cook once and eat many times. Save time by planning to cook extra on some nights to have leftovers for another meal the next day.
6. Consider your hectic week. Plan to make meals that require more time on nights you have more time;save shorter back up meals (like scrambled eggs and spinach) for nights you have less time. Remember to make a note for nights that you have dinner plans out so you don’t over buy food.
7. Challenge yourself to stick to your list. Make sure you bring your list with you to the store and then challenge yourself to stick to it. Allow yourself only one item not on your list to go into your grocery cart. Not bringing junk into the house makes it less accessible and therefore you will be less likely to eat it.
8. Eat before you go to the store. Avoid going to the store hungry; you are less likely to stick to your grocery list when you’re hungry. Have a good meal or snack before you go.
9. Prep produce right away. Don’t wait to prep that produce, do it right away! Clean and wash veggies as you are putting them away. Try portioning them out right away as well so they are easy to grab. For example, I usually buy baby carrots and even though they don’t require any washing, I still prep them. I open the bag and split the carrots into six ziploc bags so they are easy to grab for a to-go snack or to add to lunches.
10. Don’t hide the healthy foods. Place healthy foods on eye level in the refrigerator or leave them on the counter so you’re more likely to reach for them.
The question now is how often should you be doing this?
I prefer to meal plan and grocery shop weekly so that I get the freshest produce. However, some weeks just don’t allow for that. If I know I will only be able to make one trip in a couple weeks then I stock up on minimally processed freezer options such as chicken tenders, fish fillets, and veggies.
Need some inspiration? Every week I post my grocery shopping trips and weekly meal & fitness plan on my daily food and fitness blog, Hungry Hobby.