Meal planning can make all the difference when it comes to weight loss, diabetes control or simply eating healthier. Meal planning saves both time and money while helping you meet your health goals on track.
Meal planning can range from making a list of meals to more complex processes like designing an entire weekly menu and shopping plan. Finding a system that works for you is key!
Take Stock of Your Pantry and Fridge
An well-stocked pantry is the best way to ensure that you will always have everything necessary for creating healthy and tasty dinners each night.
Be it planning for the week ahead or simply trying to stay organized in your refrigerator and pantry, taking an inventory can be extremely helpful in keeping track of everything that exists and needs replacing. Writing down what items exist versus those needed helps prioritize purchases more easily and help plan ahead accordingly.
Use a paper or digital checklist, like Out of Milk, to organize and track what items you have and when their expiration dates approach – either way you’ll be able to reduce food waste!
Start With a Menu
Planned meal prep can reduce stress, save time, and make sustaining a healthy diet simpler. Use an app or calendar for meal-planning or simply write out your menu on paper or notepad – whatever works for you!
Successful meal planners make a habit of planning ahead. This could involve scheduling a day to shop and prepare meals, or cooking one to two nights each week. A shopping list tailored specifically for your dietary preferences and budget may also prove essential; for this purpose an app like Paprika or Anylist provides an easy solution; these apps automatically create shopping lists based on ingredients selected, while simultaneously tracking food-related expenditures in real time.
There are an array of recipe apps and websites available that can assist with finding recipes to meet your schedule, taste preferences and dietary needs. Some even provide meal plans with shopping lists included!
Beginner Tip: Begin meal planning quickly by compiling a list of your “recipe all-stars.” These should be dishes that you consistently enjoy, are simple to prepare, fit your budget and lifestyle requirements and offer easy weeklong meal preparation solutions. Once complete, meal planning should become much less daunting!
Search for recipes you want to include in your plan by browsing by categories, such as “healthy recipe” or “family friendly dinner,” as well as ingredients, such as “dairy free.” Once you find some you are excited about trying, save them so that they are easy to access again in the future.
Make a Grocery List
Establishing a meal plan can help save both money and nutrition by helping to prevent over-purchasing of food products. It will also allow you to avoid purchasing more than necessary.
Without a list, it is easy to overspend and waste food (and money). Also, creating a grocery list reduces stress while making it less likely that something important gets forgotten at the store.
Turoff suggests categorizing items based on where they’re stored in your home; this helps ensure you remember where to locate things more easily, meaning less wasted time searching through fridge or pantry for items already present.
Plan for Leftovers
Planned leftovers are an effective way to stretch your grocery budget, since they can be frozen and used later during the week.
Meal planning can also help reduce food waste; studies estimate that we waste up to 40 percent of what we buy!
One strategy to reduce food waste is by cooking larger batches of your favorite ingredients than necessary for one meal and freezing individual servings of them for later.
Leftover meat from Sunday’s roast could make for an easy curry or stir fry on Monday; and any vegetables leftover from Wednesday’s Spag Bol can be transformed into either a frittata for lunch the following day, or added into pasta sauce with cheese added for another delicious option on Thursday.