Six Steps to Successful Meal Planning
Spring Cleaning isn’t just about deep cleaning your home. It’s the perfect time to renew your commitment to clean eating and a healthy lifestyle. I teamed up with the crew over at Tessemae's All Natural to share my tips for meal planning.
When you are exhausted after a long day at work or tired of making dinner while dealing with your kids’ meltdowns during the “bewitching hour,” it’s hard to make healthy food choices. At that point, you are desperate for the easiest and fastest thing you can find. So if your goal is to to eat healthier this spring, you need to be more intentional and plan out your weekly dinners, lunches, and snacks so you are prepared for those moments of weakness.
If that sounds too daunting or you’ve had trouble doing it in the past, here are a six tips to get you headed in the right direction.
1. Plan for Success
Planning and Prep are the KEY to eating healthy. Spend some time on the weekend doing a menu plan and writing out your grocery list. You can always check out Tessemae’s Weekly Meal Planner for ideas. Be realistic when you’re planning and don’t try too many new recipes at once. Stick with tried and true recipes and only add one new recipe per week.
2. Sync Your Meals With Your Calendar
It’s important to make your meal plan with your calendar open. First, decide how many meals you need to make that week. What activities do you have planned? Do you plan to eat out? Is your partner working late on Wednesday? That will help decide how many dinners you need to make and what type of meals to cook. Gymnastics at 5pm? Plan for an easy Instant Pot Weeknight Chicken Tacos recipe that night.
3. Pick Recipes with Common Ingredients
When meal planning, start by shopping your own pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Using ingredients that you already have will save you money and you’ll waste less food. For example, make a double batch of quinoa for this Spring Quinoa Salad and use the rest as a side dish paired with protein and veggies later in the week.
Photo Source: Tessemae's
This is also a great way to not overbuy vegetables. Pick 2 featured vegetables each week and incorporate them into all the meals and snacks you prepare. When picking fruits, select ones that can hold up well in lunches and snacks all week. Grapes, apples, oranges, and melons tend to stay fresh for 5 days.
Select 2-3 proteins to cook at the beginning of the week so you can use them throughout the week in all your other recipes. For example, you can cook this Instant Pot Chili Con Carne for tacos on Monday and serve it in a salad on Wednesday.
4. Cook Once, Eat Twice
Pick recipes at the beginning of the week that make an abundance of food so that you’ll have leftovers. Or make double what you need for a meal and afterwards pack up the extra food in lunch containers. You can start out the week by making this Southwestern Black Bean Soup or Green Goddess Cobb so you have ready-made lunches for the rest of the week.
Photo Source: Tessemae's
5. Prep Once for Your Whole Week
Take a few hours on the weekend to prep your whole week, including lunches for you and your kids. Get your kids involved and have them pack their lunches in bento boxes, so they can grab them and go on busy school mornings.
Photo Source: Tessemae's
You’ll also want to prep all your snacks, fruits, and vegetables ahead of time. Clean them, chop them, and group them together in clear glass containers for meals or in individual baggies if you are using them for snacks. Make things as easy as possible for yourself and group snacks together in one bag like carrots with single-serve hummus, wrapped individual cheeses with crackers, nuts with dried fruit, etc. Make it convenient to eat healthy!
6. Utilize Technology
It has never been easier to grocery shop and meal plan thanks to all the apps out there. The more convenient something is, the easier it will be to keep up, so utilize the latest technology in your weekly prep routine so that you can sustain it.
Instacart- Otherwise known as every new mom’s life-saving app. You can order groceries from your local supermarket and get them delivered within an hour. There is free delivery on your first order and you’ll probably end up saving money by using this app since you won’t be buying impulse purchases. If there is any question about your order, you can chat directly with your personal shopper. This app is a game changer.
MealBoard- You can store recipes, create meals plans, plan your grocery list, and keep an inventory of your pantry all with this one app. Easily tap to add recipes from your favorite blogs (or Tessemaes’s Recipe Index) into the weekly calendar and then drag and drop the recipes to the days that you plan to make them. It will then generate your grocery list from your weekly recipes.
LaLaLunchbox- This is a meal planning app for school lunches. Kids set up virtual lunchboxes by selecting foods from categories (2 fruits, 2 veggies, 1 protein, and 1 snack) to feed a hungry monster and then are involved in the process of selecting the foods they want for each category from a Food Library. Kids’ choices then become a grocery list for parents. It gets kids involved, and saves time and money because there isn’t wasted or unwanted food.
You’ve GOT this!
By planning your meals and prepping on the weekend, you’ll start off the week feeling in control and ready for your week ahead. Plus, you’ll get better at it every time you do it. You’ll learn from your mistakes, notice what worked, and what didn’t. Pay attention to what day is best for your prep so that you don’t plan anything else during that sacred prep time. It may mean you add it to your calendar, or plan for your partner to take the kids to the park during that time. Put on a favorite podcast and start prepping!
Once it becomes a priority and part of your life, you won’t be able to live any other way. The best part is, that by batching your planning and prep to 2-3 hours on the weekend, you’ll spend less time in the kitchen during the week and more time doing the things you love!
Have Fun Organizing!