It's four o'clock in the afternoon and you suddenly realize you haven't even thought about dinner. Instead of taking a deep breath and calmly heading to the kitchen to cook your pre-planned meal, you head to a restaurant, stop at the drive through or pick up the phone to call in take out. Sound familiar? We've all been there.
I recently asked my friends what keeps them from getting into the kitchen to cook. Here are a few of their responses:
"My kids are in the way and even though I went to the grocery store, there is still nothing good to cook."
"Sometimes food prep takes a lot of time."
"I don't have all the ingredients to make anything I can think of and the last place I want to stop after work is the grocery store."
Can you relate?
We are all faced with the challenges of busy schedules. But regardless of life's obstacles, if you want to properly nourish yourself and your family, food must be a top priority. The ONLY way to know you are putting healthy foods into your body is if YOU are preparing them.
Meal planning is the answer for those who feel they are "too busy" to get into the kitchen to cook and still want to provide wholesome meals to their families.
Meal planning eliminates the issue of not having anything good to cook because you are picking meals you love and want cook. It takes care of not having the necessary ingredients on hand for your weekly dinners because you will be shopping for all of your ingredients in advance. It also cuts back on prep time as long as you set aside one day to invest a bit of time to make preparations for the week ahead.
Meal planning consists of
- A weekly meal plan
- A strategic grocery list
- Some initial prep work to prepare for the week ahead (if you are really short on time during the week)
Today I am going over some tips to help you make a meal plan. And just to clarify, a meal plan is simply your meals mapped out over a certain number of days. Even if you have never, ever, ever made a meal plan before, after reading these tips I am confident you will be able to put one together and have fun doing it! Let's get started!!
Tip #1 Organize your recipes
To help make your meal planning sessions quick and easy, I highly recommend you organize your recipes in either a binder or folder or whatever works for you. Either way, keep them some where they are all together and you can take out that reference to skim through when you are writing your plan.
I keep all of mine organized in a binder, as well as, have pages bookmarked in some of my favorite cookbooks.
If you are starting completely from scratch, start by thinking of your top 10 – 12 favorite meals. Look on the internet for similar recipes and print them out. Stick them in the folder and you have the start of your very own meal planning cookbook!
The point here is, it is too overwhelming to sit down and make a meal plan without some meal ideas to look at. So, start gathering recipes and organizing them all into one location. This will make your time meal planning go so much faster.
Tip #2 Ask yourself how often you want to go to the grocery store
How often you go to the grocery store will determine how many days you make your meal plan for. If you are as busy as I am, I only plan to go to the grocery once a week. Therefore, I make my meal plan for seven days. Once a week is the minimum I would recommend you grocery shop in order to keep produce as fresh as possible and, of course, save time.
If you know you can go to the grocery store two times a week, then you only need to do a plan for 3 or 4 days. Either way, know the answer to this before you create your meal plan.
Tip #3 Check out what you have in your pantry and freezer
Before you sit down to write your meal plan, take a look at what you already have in your house and create meals around those ingredients. This will not only give you ideas for meals, it will also save you money because you will be using some of the items you already have on hand.
Tip #4 Look at your calendar
Before you start planning out your meals, look at your calendar so you know what your schedule is like for the days ahead. If you know one night you will be home late, you may want to plan the night before to make a meal that will have leftovers. That way, schedule leftovers for the night you will be late. Or, you plan a meal, like stir-fry, that will have you in and out of the kitchen in less than 15 minutes. If you know your schedule ahead of time, you can plan accordingly for those nights you will really be short on time.
This will also help reduce the stress of, "what's for dinner," when it is seven o'clock and you are just leaving work because you already have dinner planned.
Tip #5 Involve your family
Don't put all the pressure of meal planning on just you. Involve your family, especially the kids. Better yet, have them pick a night to plan the meal and, depending upon their age, do most of, if not all, of the cooking. Have your spouse plan and prepare a meal on a certain night of the week too.
Tip #6 Get creative and have fun
To help come up with your meals, pick a food theme for the week or for a particular night. A theme for the week could be greens, in which you plan meals that use mostly green vegetables. For theme nights, you could do ethnic nights like Chinese, Mexican or Italian foods. You could think of your favorite movies and make meals based upon what the actors in the film ate.
Think of different cooking methods to help plan your meals like casserole dishes, slow cooker meals, or grilling. You could even designate a method of cooking for one day of the week. For example, Thursday's could always be slow cooker night.
Continue to search new websites or cookbooks to try new recipes and let your family determine if it is a thumbs up or a thumbs down. If it's a thumbs up, you can add it to your recipe collection.
You just need to sit down and do it; make your meal plan! Pick a day of the week you know you can meal plan and grocery shop on the same day. For me, this is either Saturday or Sunday.
More to come! Next week, I will talk about creating your grocery list, putting your meal plan into action and how to make your cooking sessions and time in the kitchen super efficient.
What challenges do you face in the kitchen? What keeps you from making a meal plan? What is your biggest frustration when it comes to cooking? Share your thoughts below or visit me on Facebook. I want to hear from you!
Health and blessings!
Randi's passion is to teach people about natural alternative's to conventional medicine through healthy eating, lifestyle changes and essential oils. She also loves teaching people the importance of getting into the kitchen to cook! She uses fresh ingredients and traditional foods in her cooking. She is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, exercise enthusiast and a consultant for an international marketing company.