One of the top reasons why busy people skimp on nutrition and get food at fast food drive-throughs is because they did not plan ahead for their meals. Meal planning goes beyond just making a basic grocery list and involves thinking in advance about what you will eat for the week rather than just grabbing whatever is quick and easy when you get hungry. As we kick off the near year, this is one of the healthiest and most attainable goals that you can strive for in your natural lifestyle.
Here are some meal planning and prep tips to help you get organized and eat better in 2023.
Benefits of Meal Planning
Planning out your meals in advance is a great way to eat more fruits, vegetables, and protein and also to eat more intentionally with every bite. It might sound overly time-consuming to plan meals, but this good habit can actually simplify your life and cause you less stress and hassles later in the week.
With a meal plan in place, you can save money by not eating out as often and avoid wasting food. However, meal plans don’t have to involve strictly homecooked meals and can still build in time for food delivery and going out to dinner.
Check Your Family’s Schedules
There is no point in planning a meal to feed your whole household if some people will be away for the evening at meetings or activities. Set aside a specific time each week, such as Sunday evening, to check everyone’s schedules and determine which days will be part of your meal plan.
Choose a Few Favorite Recipes
So that your meal plan doesn’t feel daunting, choose just a few of your favorite recipes to be a part of the weekly rotation. Initially, pick meals that you are already familiar with and can make as easily as possible. Start with dinners, and then later branch out to plan ahead for your breakfasts and lunches too.
Make a Single Shopping Trip
Running to the grocery store every couple days takes considerable time out of your busy schedule. Alternatively, you can shop just once a week to get everything on your meal planning grocery list. Choose fresh produce that is not fully ripe for use later in the week, and make meals with time-sensitive ingredients, such as fish, early in the week.
Cook Enough to Save Leftovers
Leftovers often get a bad rap since many people don’t like eating the same meal heated up multiple times. But if you make meals that are larger than what your family needs for one meal, you’ll save both time and money during the week. Homemade dinner leftovers often make the best next-day lunches, which makes meal planning especially easy.
Craft Meals Around a Theme
One of the simplest ways to approach meal planning is to make each dinner on a theme. Themes provide built-in structure to your plan so that you don’t have to be as creative. For example, you can embrace the themes of meatless Monday, taco Tuesday, Instant Pot Wednesday, casserole Thursday, and pizza Friday. Keep commonly used dry ingredients stocked in your pantry so that you don’t have to shop for the basics every week.
Allow Yourself a Cheat Meal
Although the goal of a meal plan is to add structure to your diet, some rules are meant to be broken too. Sometimes, life happens, and there is simply not time to cook a dinner that you planned to make. Give yourself some grace and feel good about the fact that you are still making positive changes in how you eat and on the path to a healthier new year.