You know how you feel when you walk into a meeting and you’re prepared or head out with the kids armed with snacks and sun hats? You got this, right?! Being organized is a great feeling; it allows you to contribute to what really matters and enables you to really enjoy the moment.
Some of my blogs include recipes, some don’t, but I know that all my readers want practical, useful information which is why, in this post, you’ll find a few tips to simplify the process of meal planning and preparing. Helpful, easy things that can make a huge difference by saving you time (and money) and lower your stress level when it comes to feeding yourself and your family.
PLAN TO PLAN – Put ‘Meal Planning’ in the calendar or it won’t become a priority and likely won’t happen. I have a recurring weekly ‘meeting’ in my calendar where half an hour is blocked off to sit at the dining room table and make a plan (for me Saturday morning). If something comes up (as is often the case with kids), that meeting has to be rescheduled to later that day or early the next.
FILL ‘ER UP! – Each week I sit down with a pencil and three tools… 1. The Calendar (so I know what activities we have for the week ahead), 2. Recipes (our family recipe book or any new recipes we’d like to try) and 3. The Meal Planning chart (free downloadable version here). If you have kids, encourage them to provide input during this time (even if they only choose one meal). I have a ‘cheat sheet’ of Meal Ideas; about 5-10 ideas per meal to get me going or to provide the kids with a little inspiration. Start filling in the meals with the family favs, and then spice it up with some new recipes or ‘special requests’.
LIST IT – Grab that list you’ve been creating throughout the week as things run out and add ingredients from your meal plan to create a master grocery list. Take into consideration what’s on hand (in fridge, freezer and pantry) and the items you know you’ll need each week. I also have a handy one-pager of “Grocery List Essentials” that I cross check my list with.
DO THE “SHOP & PREP” – Grocery shopping includes the prep! Just as you’ve carved out a certain amount of time pick up the groceries, ensure that allotted time includes prep and do this as soon as you get home. Many things that can be done ahead of time to ensure week runs smoothly and divide the responsibilities between family members (i.e. making soups, a couple salads, chopping veggies, etc.).
WHAT’S TOMORROW’S FORECAST? Throughout week look at the next day to see if there is anything to do the night before (i.e. thawing frozen items, marinating). Make dinner prep easy by pre-measuring recipe ingredients and leaving them on the counter. When you come home after a long day, you know exactly what to do without even giving it a thought.
A little planning can go a long way!
As with all new habits, this one isn’t going to change overnight. Full disclosure… it took me a good, solid six months to fully adopt the Meal Planning habit. Now it’s automatically part of the weekly routine and I’m not doing a full weekend grocery shop only to find myself back at the store by Wednesday. But if you forget, or realize half way through that you really should have planned for the week, the important thing is to just start (wherever you are in the week). Don’t give up and stop trying.
What you eat is important, but recent studies have shown that when you eat may have just as big an impact on your overall health. Papers published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society have shown that, regardless of how many calories you’re consuming, eating irregular meals may contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.