Anyone with a family or is simply trying to live a healthy lifestyle knows that when it comes to eating the right types of food (be it inexpensive or healthy options) meal planning is essential. For those of you rolling your eyes to the back of your head and moving your cursor (or thumb for mobile users) to the close button on your browser...I get it. I was once like you. I thought meal planning was a big waste of time, and I really didn't like the idea of being locked into a specific meal for the week. Ew, who likes their life to be all planned out?
Certainly not me, which is why, after a lot of trial and error, I came up with a system that works for Brian and I. Hopefully, these tips and tricks will help you as well.
1. Plan at least 4 meals a week.
I've found that this is the magic number, and after bouncing it off my friends and family, they agreed. You need at least four meals a week to make a good meal plan work. The other three days are leftover nights or cheat-night pizza.
2. Get a good, reliable, trusty cookbook.
I love cookbooks, so I've got a few, but I keep my favorites out and handy. When I'm meal planning I like to page through them and check for recipes that I've never tried and add that to the plan for variety. Pinterest is a decent spot for recipes, but I'm not going to lie, it's not my favorite. A lot of recipes there are very basic (which isn't always a bad thing) and very high in fat (even the healthy ones). I use Pinterest as a last resort. Click here for my favorite cookbooks and recipe websites.
3. Find a good meal planning worksheet.
It wasn't until I found a good one that I really got into it. There's about a million meal planning printables out there (click here for a google search). I use the monthly meal planner from my GetPaperWorks printable subscription. PS I love that subscription. It's the best thing ever.
4. Make meal planning a ritual.
Brian knows that on Friday he's going to get a text that goes something like this, "Any ideas for dinner this week?" This way he gets input and you're at least guided in the right direction for a meal or two. Then on Friday or Saturday I sit down and make out my grocery list and meal plan at the same time.
5. Make your grocery list at the same time.
I'm a huge believer in having a well stocked pantry as well as picking up quality ingredients. As I plan my meals, I add the necessary ingredients to my grocery list. When I'm done with that, I know what's missing from my pantry and add that to my list. This is a huge time saver. Click here to see what we keep in the pantry at all times.
6. Have one backup meal and be flexible.
Sometimes you are just not going to be into whatever is on your meal plan. This is where the backup meal comes in. For Brian and I it's always Spaghetti. It's quick, it's easy, and it's delicious. Also, just because you're meal planner says that you're supposed to have hamburgers on Monday and Buffalo Chicken Salad on Wednesday doesn't mean you can't switch them up. Go with what you feel like eating. Making yourself eat something you don't want is not satisfying at all.
I hope this was helpful for those of you who are interested in meal planning. Let me know if you have any tips in the comments! I'd love to hear about what you do!