5 Tips for Successful Meal Planning
Identify a day you want to shop.
This step is a key piece of the equation for many reasons. It helps you know how long your groceries need to stretch and prevents over purchasing. I recommend grocery shopping once per week.
Take a peek at your calendar.
Try writing a “week” grid on a piece of paper: the days of the week along the top and 4-6 rows below labeled as “breakfast”, “lunch”, “dinner” and a few rows for snack options. From there, place an “X” in boxes that you know you will not need to provide a meal for you or your family that eating occasion; maybe you have a standing date night on Wednesdays or a meeting that provides lunch.
Take some time to note:
- How much time do I want to spend prepping over the weekend?
- What nights will I have zero time OR energy to cook a meal?
- Do I need to have my lunches packed ahead of time?
- Don’t forget snacks!
Think of what food you would like!
Taking the data you collected from step two, start to think about meal ideas you love, how many eating occasions you get out of each meal. Fill each box with ideas for meals and snacks for the week (including leftovers!), taking into consideration the information you gathered. Start with meals you are comfortable and confident cooking, or simple meals like a protein, vegetable, and starch as you get the hang of meal planning.
Round out the balanced meal.
Take a peek at each meal and snack idea and make sure it has the following components: a protein source, a carbohydrate source, a fat source and a fruit and/or vegetable. If not, take a moment to jot down something you can add to balance the meal out.
Make a plan!
After you identify the tasks required for each meal and divvy them up across days, you are ready to go. From here you can decide when you want to cook. Some examples are below of how tasks can be spread to make cooking time a breeze.
- Chili: Vegetables can be chopped on Sunday, beans can be drained and stored ahead of time. Everything can be thrown in a crock pot the morning to cook before dinner time.
- Shrimp stir fry: Cook a big batch of a whole grain, such as rice, quinoa, barley, or pasta on Sunday and store for lunches and dinners, marinate the shrimp. The day of, chop veggies (or pre chop!) and cook per the recipe instructions.
- Meatloaf: Pre-season and shape the loaf ahead of time, bake day of. Serve with a steamed frozen veggie and whole grain.
The only “Right” way to meal plan is to do so in a way that works for you! It is worth the effort and will help to save you money and time. It also helps to eliminate the dreaded question of “What’s for dinner?”
Staci Belcher, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
As Farmview's Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Staci teaches clients to optimize their health through actionable, realistic steps. She takes a holistic approach to behavior change and works to teach clients how to create habits that fill their plate, calm their mind, and nourish their body. Staci is passionate about local, real food, a great yoga class, and an iced coffee on a hot summer day.