June 12, 2018
Does having a week’s worth of dinners planned out in advance sound appealing to you? It always has for me too. But with so many different meal planning blueprints out there to choose from, the process can seem a bit intimidating. The good news is it doesn’t have to be. In fact, meal planning couldn’t be easier!
Before you start meal planning, you should decide on your goals. Meal planning can accomplish many things, from cost savings to cutting down on food waste. But it’s difficult to accomplish all of them at once. Decide on your top two or three reasons as these will help drive your recipe choices.
Once you decide on your meal planning goals, this easy, three-step process is a great place to start. Allow yourself enough time to make a list, shop, and prep your food. Many meal-planning resources suggest starting the process on the weekend, preferably Friday night. This gives you enough time over the weekend to make a list (Friday), shop (Saturday), and prep (Sunday). If it’s unrealistic for you to start on Friday night (hello? decompression time!), at least aim for a weekend day when you have more time on your hands then you would mid-week.
Before you start picking your recipes, be realistic about your family’s schedule that week. If you have a work event one night, or one of your children has soccer practice another, make sure you keep it quick and easy on those nights. Also, schedule takeout one night if you want to! Meal planning is flexible and allows for nights off.
No-brainer rules for picking the right recipes
Before you make your grocery list, make a master ingredient list. This can be accomplished by going through your recipes for the week and making a list of all the ingredients you need. Then, take that list and compare it with what’s in your kitchen. Cross off anything you already have. Once that list is pared down, you can start your grocery list. It’s helpful to organize your list by sections of the grocery store, e.g. produce, meats, dairy, etc. This ensures you don’t miss anything and makes for a quicker shopping trip.
Set aside an hour or two to prep for the week. If your weeks are anything like mine, they get busy fast. The best way to ensure you cook what you planned is by prepping ahead of time. Although some steps cannot be completed ahead of time, prep days are perfect for chopping veggies, cooking chicken, or washing lettuce and herbs. You can also use your prep day for batch cooking. For example, cooking up chicken that you can then use throughout the week in tacos, salads, or soups.
My husband will be the first to tell you: I often get hangry. I can’t help it. I need to get food in me — fast. And usually that food is whatever is easiest (read: unhealthy). When you don’t have a plan for what to eat, more often than not, you’ll turn to easy, unhealthy choices like packaged snacks and fast food. This is one of the most beneficial parts of meal planning. In addition to saving you time and money, it helps you eat healthier because you:
So even though I may never color code my closest or bookshelves, I am confident that I can meal plan with just a little up-front effort. And if that gets me eating healthier, well that’s just an added bonus in my (cook)book.
If you’re an IBX member, you may be covered for six free annual visits with a registered dietitian who can help you with meal planning. Check to see if your plan covers nutrition counseling. To find a participating registered dietitian, primary care provider, or another network provider, Independence Blue Cross members can search our Provider Finder Tool or call 1-800-ASK-BLUE (1-800-275-2583) (TTY: 711).
This article was originally published on IBX Insights.
I’m a writer and bookworm who loves learning and writing about the latest health and wellness topics. Like a true Gemini, I’m a walking dichotomy. I like kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, but I also like ice cream, fried chicken, and cheese. So, I’m always fighting the good fight. As the mom of two little girls, I strive to model healthy habits that my daughters will carry with them for life.