It seems that one of the most common mistakes I see my clients make is failing to include meal planning and preparation. “The fridge is empty, so let’s get take-out for dinner!” “The pantry is filled with a bunch of stuff that won’t make a meal, so frozen dinner it is!” We’ve all been there! Myself included.
Planning is so important when it comes to eating well. The best part about planning is that it doesn’t have to be complicated! There are no rules to meal planning.
I have documented my meal planning for this week to share with you! I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination … the way I plan changes from week-to-week, sometimes it doesn’t get done, and many times my week may not go according to plan. Regardless, eating is always so much easier, more delicious, and more enjoyable when I have planned and prepared ahead of time! Here are the steps I took this week for meal planning and preparation. Enjoy!
- I usually block off about 3 hours in my calendar at some point during the weekend for planning, shopping, and preparing food for the week ahead. If I don’t make time in my calendar, it doesn’t get done.
- First, I take stock of the food in my kitchen. If I don’t make a conscious effort to browse through my fridge and pantry, veggies usually end up going bad or packages of food will sit in my pantry for months. What perishable foods are in the refrigerator that need to be used quickly? Are there any frozen foods or ingredients in my pantry that I have been wanting to use or that I have forgotten about? Here is what I discovered this week!
A partially-used jar of tomato sauce!
Some frozen tomatoes from my garden last summer!
Frozen kale. I don’t even remember why I bought this, but it needs to be eaten!
I forgot I had all that salmon in the freezer!
These sardines have been sitting in my pantry for months. I have been wanting to use them in a recipe!
- After I’ve taken stock of what I have, I use my cookbooks, Google, and Pinterest to help me figure out how I will use these ingredients in my cooking. I also scroll through recipes I bookmarked online to remind myself of any new recipes I have been wanting to make. I try not to include more than one or two new recipes each week because that can be overwhelming. Keep it simple! I found an awesome chili recipe to use those frozen tomatoes and a sardine cake recipe that hopefully tastes like crab cakes! I decided to use the pasta sauce and kale to make a veggie pasta.
- Using a pen and paper, I write out a plan. I’m pretty specific about planning my dinners, but I leave the rest of my plan flexible. Writing down 2-3 breakfasts, some snacks, and some lunch ideas is helpful for me in terms of shopping and making sure I have enough ingredients on hand. Don’t forget to leave room in your plan for leftovers!
- Before heading to the store, I make a list in my cell phone of everything I need based on my plan. I usually end up having to stop by the store once during the week because I forgot something … nobody is perfect!
- Grocery shopping time! I usually shop at Kroger and Fresh Thyme Market. Whole Foods is a pretty far drive for me, but I try to take a trip out there once a month for special ingredients. This is what was in my cart this week.
- Lastly, I prepare as much ahead of time as possible. It doesn’t take too long and it’s totally worth it! This week, I prepared containers of chopped veggies (some just purchased and some that didn’t get prepped last week) for snacking and adding to salads, chopped veggies for cooking, cut pineapple that I didn’t get around to prepping last week, and my favorite homemade ranch dip.
- Implement the plan! Leaving some extra time in the morning to eat breakfast and gather everything for my lunchbox is key.
I hope I have helped you see that meal planning doesn’t have to be complicated. There isn’t one best way to meal plan. My advice to you: Take the time and extra effort to just try it out and you will find what works best and feels right for you! Happy planning!