Meal Planning - Tips To Get You Started!
Most people have heard about the benefits of meal planning (saves you time, saves you money, helps you eat healthier, and the list goes on), but getting started can be so overwhelming. To be honest, I am not a PRO meal planner myself. I don't prep all my meals for the week ahead of time, however I do a few things that really help ensure I am eating healthy throughout the week. By doing so I am encouraged to make healthy choices daily. Our food environment (what types of foods we are surrounded with) will influence what eat, lets be honest if there is a bag of chips sitting in your cupboard, you're eventually going to eat them (or at least I would)! In today's blog post I am going to share with you how I meal plan and some tips to help get you started (I promise you will be so thankful you did!)
My Meal Planning Routine:
Step 1: Think about the food items I have to use up (e.g. produce, frozen meats/fish, frozen soups etc.)
Step 2: Plan my weekly dinner meals. As I mentioned above, I don't meal prep for the entire week, but I usually plan out my weekly dinners. My weeks can be pretty busy, so I aim for simple and quick meals and tend to be a little more laid back on the weekends. Sunday I will make a larger meal that is used on Monday (leftovers), and I usually prep something for lunches as well (e.g. tuna salad).
Step 3: Create a grocery list based on my meal plans for the week.
Step 4: Go grocery shopping (that's the fun part). I also add things to the list I will need for healthy snacking, breakfasts etc.
My meals for this week:
Sunday/Monday - today I am making slow cooked pulled pork with coleslaw (this will also be used for dinner tomorrow as well). I have also prepped egg salad, which will be good for a few days of lunches this week.
Tuesday - minestrone (will need to be thawed) soup with grilled cheese (I call this cheap night)
Wednesday - fish filets (this week will be haddock), brussels sprouts (frozen), and brown rice
Thursday - spinach and ricotta ravioli with tomato sauce or pesto (debating) and salad
Friday - shrimp and frozen veggie stir fry (with brown rice)
Weekend - involves birthday meals and mothers day (so no meal prep for me!)
Tips to get you started with meal planning:
1. Make a grocery list (this list can be ongoing throughout the week, write things down as you realize you need them).
2. Write down some of you or your family's favourite meals. This can help you decide what you might include in your weekly meals. Some of my family favourites are healthy tacos, stir fry, and chicken/broccoli casserole.
3. Look in your freezer, fridge, and cupboard for foods you can use up before they go bad and incorporate those items into your meals. Look at flyers or apps and see what's on sale, can you use those items in your meals?
4. Plan out your meals, think about things that are easy and simple (will only take you 20-40 minutes - start to finish) and things that you/your family will enjoy. If you like to experiment, save those meals for nights you are less busy or the weekends.
5. Stock your pantry! Some great things to always have available include:
Fresh fruit and vegetables (I like to always have sugar snap peas, baby carrots, apples, bananas, and oranges)
Healthy cereal or granola (I usually have original cheerios and all bran buds in my cupboard)
Legumes (chickpeas, black beans, lentils) - can be easily used with pasta, salads, or rice dishes
Frozen or dried fruit (I usually always have frozen berries I use to make smoothies, have with yogurt, have with cereal, use in baking etc.)
Whole grains (I always have brown rice on hand, quinoa/pasta, bread)
Yogurt (optional - if you eat dairy this is something great to have on hand. I love Skyr or Greek yogurt for its added protein). Yogurt bowls can make for a great healthy snack or meal.
Eggs (optional- can be easily made incorporated into your meals - used in soups (crack an egg in some veggie soup for extra protein), use hard boiled eggs in salads, or make omelets
Canned fish - tuna or salmon is great for making tuna/salmon salad when you are in a rush
Frozen veggies - they are perfect for stir fry, you can add them to soup, casseroles, or just use them as a side! I always have 1-2 packs on hand.
6. Think about making extra for leftovers. Making extra is a great way to ensure you have healthy lunches for the next day.
7. Remember to keep it simple! Use simple ingredients and give your meals a flavour boost with vegetable oils, spices, and herbs. A cook in Italy once told me, "Italian food tastes so good because it's simple. We use some olive oil and garlic, and the food tastes great."
I hope these tips provided you with some ideas and inspiration. What do you currently do to meal plan? I would love to hear your approaches, successes and challenges!
Enjoy the rest of your Sunday. Cheers to happy and healthy meal planning! :)
Until next time,
Eat Right Feel Right - XO Angela