5 Ways to Start Your Meal Planning Journey
Meal planning is a strategy that involves defining and preparing your meals one to two times per week. Whether you are cooking for just yourself, one to two people, or a larger group, planning meals is an excellent way to improve your food choices. Taking the time to plan a healthy evening meal can help you save money, stick to your health goals, and develop some creativity in the kitchen. Not sure how? Here are five simple ways to help you get started.
1. Define Your Meal Planning Goals
What are your main goals with meal planning? Is it to lose weight? Reduce your spending on takeout? Learning how to cook? Is it a combination of goals? Whatever your reasons are it is important to note them. This will help you when designing your meals and picking out groceries. Once you have identified your goals, you will then need to strategize how you will meet them through meal planning. Take some time to jot down each goal and reflect on your current lifestyle. For example, if time is an issue, then consider ordering your groceries through online services or see if your local grocery store delivers. This will help you save time in your day.
Now that you have organized your goals, keep them in plain sight so you can reflect on them daily. A good place to put your goals list is on your refrigerator door so that every time you go to get food you are reminded of your reasons for meal planning. By seeing your goals often you are more likely to progress toward achieving them. If you are not progressing as expected, you can evaluate why and change your behavior and priorities appropriately.
2. Create a List of Meals
Take some time during the week to list out all of your favorite meals along with their recipes. Make sure to include breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. If you tend to order take out often then you might want to look up those recipes and find some healthy alternatives. Eating out not only adds up in dollars but also in calories so finding healthier alternatives is an effective way to achieve both financial and weight loss goals you may have.
Once you have researched your recipes for the week, organize them in a schedule similar to the following below:
- Days 1-7
- Breakfast Meal, Recipe
- Snack 1 Meal, Recipe
- Lunch Meal, Recipe
- Snack 2 Meal, Recipe
- Dinner Meal, Recipe
- Grocery List
You will need to organize your meals in this format for every day of the week. The more practice you have with this process the easier it will become.
[Need some ideas? Check out ILYNSI’s Healthy Foodie blog for healthy eating recipes and tips].
3. Outline Your Grocery List
Once you have a list of meals for the week create a separate list of groceries. Then, head to your favorite store and pick up your items. The best time to go to the grocery store is early in the morning or later in the evening. After work and weekends tend to be prime time for grocery shoppers so plan accordingly. It is also important to know the layout of your grocery store so that you can quickly pick up all the items on your list and not lose time searching through the aisles. This helpful tip not only saves time but also prevents you from purchasing unnecessary items not tied to your meal planning goals.
4. Prepare Your Meals
This is the fun part! Get to cooking. You will likely need to dedicate a large block of time for this since you will be making a lot of food. If you have a really busy lifestyle a little extra planning will be needed. A good time for meal prep is on a Sunday morning given that you have already done your shopping sometime prior. One good reason for this is that you will get your meals done earlier in the day and prevent late night snacking on your food.
After you have cooked all of your meals, portion them out in your meal prep containers. This will help you with portion sizing so you do not overeat thereby controlling your calorie intake. You may also want to label each container by meal, time, and day you will eat them.
You can find meal prep containers online at an affordable price. Make sure they are BPA free, microwave and freezer friendly, and can go into a dishwasher.
5. Eat and Enjoy
Remember to have fun with this. Meal planning is an empowering gift to yourself. Meal planning is not a diet but rather a lifestyle. This practice allows you to become more creative in the kitchen, honor your body by feeding your body with nutritious and tasty meals, and help you achieve your personal goals. It may take some time at first to get the hang of this but once you do you will surely be hooked for life.
Learning to become more organized with your meals helps to create more efficiency in your routine. You will no longer find yourself hungry and unsure of what to eat. It also helps you to become more accomplished. Over time, you will learn how to make creative healthy meals, budget your grocery bill, and extend your groceries for longer periods of time. Good luck!
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