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Summer is over and a new school year is set to begin. It’s time to get back into a steady routine. Whether you’re in need of grab and go breakfast recipes, back to school lunch ideas, or quick and easy family dinners, meal planning is a great place to start.
Meal planning for the week can help you and your family eat healthy and nourishing meals, all while making your life easier through those busy weekdays.
Check out my top 7 steps to successful meal planning to get you started.
When you’re sitting down to plan the recipes you’ll make for your week, you’ll want to consider a few things, to ensure you enjoy them to the fullest:
Your Food Cravings and Mood: If you’ve been dreaming of Mediterranean cuisine, you should probably incorporate a Greek pasta salad into your menu this week.
The Weather: Rainy days call for soup. You likely won’t want to eat a lot of raw foods if it’s cold out.
Your Schedule: How much time do you have for prepping? Keep it simple by choosing quick and easy recipes if you have a busier than normal schedule.
Kitchen Space: Choosing recipes according to your kitchen space can help keep your meal planning efficient. Try choosing one oven recipe, one stovetop recipe, and some that require no heat. Whether or not you have re-heating methods available to you at work may also influence your recipe choices.
The number of recipes I choose depends on the number of portions of food I will be require for that week. I generally meal prep for two people, my fiancé and myself. This means if I am preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner (3 meals) for 5 days a week, I will need 30 portions of food between the two of us. Knowing this, I choose just enough recipes to provide the right number of portions while offering some variety throughout the week. On top of this I like to make 2-3 snack recipes and pack them individually to grab and throw into our lunch bags to keep us satiated through the day.
Write a shopping list based on the ingredients in each recipe you’ve selected. You will spend less time wandering aimlessly through the aisles of the grocery store, and you won’t become stressed out by realizing a key ingredient is missing when you get home. I like to organize my grocery lists by the section of the store I would find each item. I keep this list in my phone so I can remove items as I put them in the cart.
You don’t have to cook 10 recipes if you are prepping for 10 meals. One-pot and casserole recipes for dinner are great for leftovers, because they often make many portions with no added effort. You can have the leftovers for dinner later in the week or take them to work for lunch. You can even make a double batch to keep in the freezer. Your future self will thank you.
It’s great to plan for healthy meals all week, but if you forget to prep healthy snacks, you could find yourself hungry between meals and eyeing those chips in the vending machine. The times I let myself get too hungry is when I tend to fall off the healthy eating wagon. Making sure to prep healthy snacks for the week is especially important if you are meal planning to improve your health. Avoid processed junk food by making energy bites, protein bars, muffins and prepping some raw veggies, cut up fruit and a homemade dip for the week.
Keep an archive of your favorite recipes. I tend to go through phases of loving a certain recipe and eating it every day, then forgetting about it for a few months. Whether you’re printing them out and starting your own recipe book or pinning them to your virtual board, documenting your favorite recipes will save you from those weeks you are feeling uninspired or overwhelmed by the thought of meal planning. Take a look at your tried-and-true recipe list and you might even re-discover some forgotten gems!
If you are spending a few hours a week prepping meals you might as well enjoy it. Play your favorite kitchen dance party songs to set the mood. If you’re worried about giving up precious family time while you’re stuck in the kitchen, get everyone on board and make it a family event! Getting children involved is a great way to educate them on the basics of healthy eating and cooking skills. Kids being hands-on in the kitchen can also increase their willingness to try new things.
Making a grocery list ahead of time not only makes your shopping quick and easy but allows you to check if there are any ingredients you may already have in your fridge or pantry to prevent double buying ingredients.
You may also want to look for ingredients that can easily be substituted for items you already have. Does your recipe call for maple syrup? You likely already have some honey you can use instead! Try choosing recipes using items you have. Take a look in your veggie drawer to see what items are nearing their end. What recipes might you be able to throw them into? Soups or salads are a great home for forgotten veggies as they are easily improvised.
Another great way to make your meal planning cost effective is to implement more plant based recipes. Try out some vegan or vegetarian recipes throughout the week. Legumes are generally inexpensive, plus they’re a great source of protein when paired with a complementary grain.
To give you an idea of what your meal prepping week will look like, I have shared an example of my own meal planner and included some great recipes for you to try out!
|Breakfast||Smoothie Pack||Chia Pudding||Smoothie Pack||Chia Pudding||Overnight Oats|
|Lunch||Pasta Salad||Lentil Curry||Salmon||Chickpea Wraps||Kale Salad|
|Dinner||Salmon||Kale Salad||Pasta Salad||Lentil Curry||Chickpea Wraps|
|Snacks||Hummus and Energy Bites||Fruit and Hummus||Fruit and Energy Bites||Hummus and Fruit||Hummus and Energy Bites|
To make the glaze: In a bowl, mix ¼ C Coconut Sauce, grated ginger and 1 Tbsp honey.
Place in a blender and blend until smooth.