Do you struggle with planning your weekly meals? Does your goal of healthy eating become sabotaged by last minute food choices?

Meal planning is key for maintaining a balanced diet. Here are some simple tips that will set you up for success and help you to stay focused on your nutrition goals.

1. Block off time on your calendar to plan your menu for the following week. It is recommended to plan your meals on a Thursday or Friday, so that you can grocery shop and prep over the weekend. Organize your list by food group: Fruits, vegetables, proteins, starches, dairy/dairy subs, and healthy fats. Strive to make as many foods as possible whole real foods with minimal ingredients.

2. Determine the number of dinners you have in your meal plan. If you double the portions, you will have enough for leftovers. Remember the phrase “cook once, eat twice”. Leftovers can be used for either lunch the next day, or for dinner later in the week. This will significantly reduce the number of meals you need to prepare each week.

3. Make a list of all ingredients needed to create the meals. Ideally, do this while you are at home so that you can take inventory of what you already have. Cross off the items you do not need to purchase. This will help you to greatly reduce costs for unnecessary items.

4. For an additional means of cost cutting, scan store apps, circulars and newspapers for coupons. If you can’t find coupons for the foods in your meal plan, try using coupons for other household goods such as paper products, cleaning products, and personal items.

5. Don’t be afraid to repeat what works. If everyone loves Mexican, keep a Mexican dish on your list each week but just vary what you serve (fish tacos, bean burritos, chicken enchiladas etc).

6. Try using a weekly template. Here’s an example: 2 nights per week poultry; 2 nights per week fish, 1 night per week beef or pork, 1 night per week vegetarian, 1 night per week dining out. Another way to plan a template is by theme: Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Crock-Pot Wednesday, Stir-Fry Friday, etc.

7. Got picky eaters? Try stations or “bars” that provide variety but also satisfy individual preferences. Examples include: Salad bar, taco bar, pizza bar, potato bar etc. Each family member can customize to their hearts delight.

8. Stumped for ideas? Get the family involved. Ask each family member to help you come up with 1-2 meals each week. For kids, have them pick the night of the week the want “their meal” served. Take it one step further and have them help you prepare and serve the meal. This is a great way to get kids more involved in the kitchen.

9. Keep an inventory of meals that are family favorites. Ideally, build this up to 15-20 recipes. You can pull from this inventory each week to allow for non-stressful meal planning.

10. Stock your freezer and your pantry. Load up on beans, whole grains, healthy oils, frozen vegetables, fruits, and proteins. Set aside 1-2 days per month to make and freeze meals. This will really come in handy during busy times when you may not have been able to effectively meal plan.

SAMPLE MEAL PLAN:

SUNDAY: Baked cod, asparagus, sweet potatoes

MONDAY: Broccoli, red pepper, garlic frittata, salad, roasted potatoes

TUESDAY: Fish Tacos (use leftover cod from Sunday), salad (leftover from Monday)

WEDNESDAY: Roasted chicken, broccoli, butternut squash

THURSDAY: Leftovers from Wednesday’s dinner

FRIDAY: Beef stir fry with veggies and rice

SATURDAY: Dine Out

Suggestions like these can make meal planning easy and fun. For more ideas or to book a private session, contact me here.

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