Meal planning can seem so burdensome and overwhelming. But when we plan meals, it helps us eat healthier and stay on a budget.
So how do we do it?
First questions to ask: Who’s eating? What dietary restrictions do they have? Is someone gluten-free, dairy-free, or soy-free? Start your thinking and searching there. What’s your budget? It is possible to eat healthy on a budget. And another resource worth bookmarking is the Environmental Working Group’s “Good Food on a Tight Budget” shopping guide.
Next, which meals do you need to plan – breakfast, lunch, and dinner for all 7 days, or a different variation? Write those down. On nights you plan to dine out or order takeout, look up restaurant menus and pre-choose your healthy option ahead of time.
So how many nights are left that you’ll need to put fresh meals on the table? That’s how many recipes you need to go in search of, whether something new or an old-standby. Write down what each night’s dinner will be, including any side items. For dinners, factor in leftovers, or bulk cooking that can cover multiple meals (such as stews.)
Then, check ingredients used in each recipe and create a grocery list. What items do you have on hand already, and what items need to go on your grocery list? A list-making app on your phone can simplify the shopping experience. I’ve used the Paprika app, which helps organize recipes, make meal plans, and create grocery lists, for several years.
If you’re planning for healthy breakfasts and lunches, try to keep those simple and routine, revolving through several healthy possibilities – eggs or overnight oats for breakfast and a fresh, non-processed option for lunch, such as salad with protein on top.
Then you can explore more variety around dinner.
Once you determine your meals and make your grocery list, consider planning out a few more steps.
When will you go to the grocery store? Think through your typical day or week, then plan the grocery runs you’ll need. Put it on your calendar.
Meal Planning Resources
If the pen-to-paper way of planning frustrates you, we can take a look at some additional meal planning resources. I’m not an affiliate for any of the fee-based services. Click the links for more information on each one.
Cooking Light magazine offers a weeknight meal planning site in which you select a category – five-ingredient, clean eating, vegetarian, low-cal, quick and easy, or grilling – and click and drag your choices onto each day. Then, you can print out the recipes all at once. It’s free.
Real Plans offers fully customizable meal planning for as low as $6 per month.
I mentioned the Paprika app earlier. It’s $4.99 to download, and if you want to use it on your PC computer, your iPad, and your iPhone, you need to purchase it for each device. But then your information would transfer between those platforms.
Obviously, these are just a few. Do a search of “meal planning apps” and see what comes up that strikes your fancy, has good reviews, and that you can see yourself using. In the long run, meal planning will save you time, energy, and money.
So how has meal planning worked for you in the past? What’s worked? What have you learned? Comment below; I’d love to hear from you.
Welcome! I’m Amy, an integrative health coach, offering grace and space for a healthier you. This article is Step 22 in the “31 Steps to a Healthier You” series. You can access all posts in the series here. And I hope you’ll want to stick around for a while. If so, please subscribe at this link so you’ll get updates.