If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail -Benjamin Franklin
Do you hate meal planning?
It’s time consuming and you don’t know what to do or where to look for good recipes. It’s easier to opt for takeout.
Americans waste $165 billion, around $529 per person, by tossing away unwanted meals and snacks, according to USA Today. That’s a lot of money. There has to be an easier way.
I’ve got you covered at WeTalkHealthy.com by giving you the tools to make meal planning easier. Get a sampling of recipes right here.
Don’t skip pre-planning
Use a monthly calendar to view at a glance commitments like meetings, after work or school activities, date night or cheat meals, special occasions, and holidays. Develop a weekly meal plan based on schedules and time commitments. Always have a trusted source of recipes. We Talk Healthy is releasing cookbooks with clean recipes you can trust. Grab a copy today.
17 ways to make plan meals
1. Stop looking for the perfect meal plan.
There is no one size fits all approach. Any meal plan can be customized to fit your needs. Stick with it for 30 days to see what works and what doesn’t. Tweak as necessary.
2. It’s not just about what you want to eat. It’s also about what you need to eat.
The cookbooks will contain cheat sheets to rough-in meetings, games, practices, and let the time commitments help dictate what you eat. Then use the weekly calendar to pencil in meals ahead of time. Extra curricular activities don’t have to mean drive through food. The crock pot is your best friend on nights when you need to eat the minute you walk in the door.
3. Don’t start from zero every night.
Make prep time on the weekend to slice and dice vegetables according to your planned meals. It will save time throughout the week. I use a food processor and quickly slice, shred, and dice veggies for the week.
4. Make the first meal of the week easy.
The transition from the weekend to the work week can be trying. Make Monday a simple meal to compensate. Cook something you commonly make, or pull out a freezer meal. Use a double batch of sauce or soup that has been previously made for simplicity.
5. Focus on core meals.
Are there meals your family loves to eat over and over again? Wash. Rinse. Repeat. You know how long these meals take to prepare and how long they last. Additionally, the ingredients are probably kept on hand and easily accessible.
6. Stretch your protein.
The “meat” of the meal is the most expensive part. Add lots of veggies in a stir fry or a casserole, or add a can of beans to the protein to make it stretch farther.
7. Mix it up with spices.
Use the same meal with different spices. Got cumin and chili powder? You’ve got Mexican. Got curry? You’ve got Indian. Got basil, thyme, oregano, and garlic? You’ve got Italian. Got soy or rice vinegar? You’ve got Asian.
8. Don’t be a short order cook.
I don’t cook different dishes to please everyone. It takes too much time. My kids know to expect that one meal is what’s for dinner. They can choose to eat it or not, but they don’t get to have a bad attitude, or ask for snack, if they pass on a meal.
9. Eat leftovers.
Schedule leftover night and take a night off from cooking, especially on nights filled with activities. This is a great way to keep food from going bad.
11. Look for recipes.
Finding good recipes is time consuming. Look to WeTalk Healthy’s new cookbooks for recipes. We’ve got you covered. Just say I want recipes and provide your email right here, or in the comments.
12. Create a place to save recipes and shopping lists. Keep it simple and accessible.
Use Evernote or Pinterest to save recipes and have them accessible. Use an app like Menu Planner or Pepperplate to make a shopping list. Pepperplate is free and can be used on any operating system. Take the list to the store and only buy what’s on the list.
13. Check the weather.
I’ve tried to serve soup on a 90 degree day a few more times then I’d like to admit. Check the weather to see if it’s cold and fitting for a stew, rainy and deserving of a soup, or sultry and in need of a salad or something light.
14. Have theme nights.
Have theme night. Maybe it’s fish on Wednesday, taco Tuesday, or a recipe from around the world on Thursday. Whatever it is, have fun, and create anticipation with a theme.
15. Check what’s on sale.
Use store ads, newspaper circulations, store mailers, or online sales to check for sales. If chicken, fish, or turkey is on sale, then work it into your meal plan.
16. Prep food as you get back from the store.
Wash the produce. Pour a little apple cider vinegar in a sink full of water and let the fruit and veggies wash themselves as you put groceries away. Rinse well and dry before refrigerating.
17. Don’t overstuff the fridge/stock the pantry.
You can’t eat what you can’t see. Food can’t be eaten if it gets lost in the back corner of the fridge or under the carrots in the produce drawer. Don’t purchase more than can be consumed.
Do stock the pantry with commonly used spices and beans to dress up a quick meal. If olive oil is a staple in your meals, then you don’t want to run out.
The average Americans spends $3,008 on restaurants, and $4,015 on groceries, according to The Motley Fool.
Super quick meal ideas
Next time you consider calling for takeout because there is “nothing” to eat, consider these quick meals:
- Burritos or tacos. It’s easy to make taco meat. Use a packet in case of emergency, or use some garlic powder, onion powder, crushed red pepper, dried oregano, paprika, cumin, and sea salt to make your own. Add some lettuce, salsa, sliced avocados, and stop right there for tacos. Or, add a can of beans and break out a package of tortillas and you’re on your way to burritos.
- A charcuterie board. There are times we enjoy a meat and cheese tray. Cured sausage or muscle-cut meat, prosciutto, or pepperoni are best. Add some cheese, fresh fruit, almonds or walnuts, and a touch of dark chocolate to round out a charcuterie board. Open a box of crackers in a pinch, or enjoy a baguette.
- Smoothies. Great recipes here.
- Omelets. Once in awhile we enjoy breakfast for dinner. A couple of eggs, along with a little water and oil make an egg shell that you can fill with whatever you want. Leftover veggies are great for this.
If pizza is a phone call away any of the above meals is a better option. Don’t plan to fail.
This has been a guest post from Nicole Akers at WeTalkHealthy.com. She is a Health Advocate and mom of 2 who studies food, and wellness. It’s her mission to help you live a healthier life by learning about the dangers in the food you feed your family. Whether it’s meal prep or creative exercise without setting foot in the gym, you don’t want to miss her tips!