“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” – Benjamin Franklin
It is officially October and that means you are back into the hectic weeknights of balancing school, homework, sports, errands, and ALL the extracurricular activities. Cooking healthy, quick dinners that your family can feel next to impossible. BUT if you can get into the habit of healthy meal planning, I promise, it will completely change your life! I am not exaggerating; I have witnessed incorporating these meal planning tips help countless moms.
How many of you have either a Pinterest page, stack of recipes printed and/or countless cookbooks filled with recipes you have the best intentions of making but never get to? And every night feel overwhelmed or defeated with the “WHAT AM I GOING TO MAKE TONIGHT???” Then all of the to-do’s get in the way and you end up either making something quick that is either unhealthy or unsatisfying to the fam or even worse going through the drive-thru!
Here are 5 steps to start this week that will make healthy meal planning simple and easy!
Step 1: Take 10-15 minutes the same day every week
Sunday is the day I create our weekly meal plan and go food shopping. I aim to get it done (and let’s be honest, over with) first thing in the morning. Setting aside this small amount of time on the same day every week quickly becomes a habit. And like most things in life, the more you do it the more efficient you will become. If you allow it to take 20, 30, or even 40 minutes it will feel and become unsustainable. So, pick a day and time that will work for you most weeks and stick to it!
Step 2: Have a “go-to” master meal list
Have a healthy meal planning recipe list whether they are handwritten, printed, or binder of printed recipes. Keep notes on the recipes for any changes you have made or the family has suggested. And keep recipes simple! Your master list should have recipes/meals that you know how to make, are comfortable making, aren’t new to you. Save the more elaborate and time consuming recipes for the weekend when you can both enjoy making and eating them! If your family has a few favorites put them on a regular rotation! If your family loves Taco Tuesday keep it in the regular rotation! You can even take it a step further and organize your lists by topic- favorite slow cooker, meatless Mondays, Italian, Mexican etc. That way when you are taking your 10 minutes you aren’t searching through a huge list! Get your family involved in this step by having your husband and kids give you a list of their favorites so you can make sure to add those in once and a while.
Step 3: Print off a free calendar
The next step is to take those recipes and put them on the calendar for the week. But, let’s not reinvent the wheel. There are TONS of free calendars you can print off with blocks by day and even by all 3 meals per day. You can even print off ones with space or a separate tool for your shopping list. Keeping it organized will help you with your next step!
Step 4: Fill out your weekly calendar and make a shopping list
Now that you have your master list of recipes and calendar ready, it’s time to create your healthy meal plan for the week! This is the time to see whats on deck this week. Are you crazy busy? Or have 1-2 nights to try some new recipes? I like to plan crock pot meals or leftovers for nights we know will be hectic. Monday nights we don’t get home from my daughters dance class until late, so that is always a crock pot night! By looking at your schedule you will be setting yourself up for success not failure! And remember as with all things in life- be flexible! Plans change so save what you didn’t get to make for another night this week or even next week. There are plenty of times we end up throwing the chicken in the freezer for next week! If you are your family don’t mind repeating meals, you can create two or three weekly dinner menus and then rotate!
Your healthy meal plan has been created! Now check your refrigerator and pantry for what you already have any make a shopping list. Don’t forget to add any pantry staples you are low on, snacks, drinks and items your family will need to fill in the gaps!
Step 5: Prepare as many elements as possible in advance
Once the shopping is done, it is time for prep! When you get home from the store chop and bag vegetables and fruit for dinners and snacks. Or if you feel really short on time buy pre-cut or frozen fruits and vegetables, they still packed with all the amazing nutrients! You can even precook rice and quinoa for the week!
Lastly, make sure you post your healthy meal plan where you and your family can see it! I hang ours on a cork board that is on the side of our pantry door. It is there with the monthly school lunch and snack calendars and a running list of what I run out of during the week so I remember to grab on my next shopping trip! Keeping it in sight will remind you (and your family!) what’s on deck for the week. Get your kids involved in helping to prep on the weekends and in the dinner making process. Getting them involved will make them more excited to eat the fruits of their labor! Once you get into a groove creating a healthy meal plan every week will become simple and fast, you will wonder how you ever survived without it before!