Meal Planning 101: How to Plan the Week Ahead
If you are short on time and still want to make nutritious food for your family, or if you are embarking on a new healthy eating program, you should start meal planning. This involves planning out what you will eat for the week, getting ingredients and meals ready to cook for each day, and minimizing how much needs to be done when it’s time to prepare dinner.
Here are some things to know about meal planning and what is involved:
How to get started
Look at your calendar for the week, so you have a clear picture of what you have happening each evening. Maybe there are evening kid activities, school meetings, or social events happening that will change what you might be doing for dinner.
Decide if you would like variety, or if you prefer to eat the same thing for several meals. Do you and your kids like to have leftovers for lunch the next day?
It can be helpful to have a space in your weekly planner, or a notebook specifically for meal planning, that can also be used for your shopping list.
Start with dinners
We find it helpful to start with dinners, as breakfast and lunches are typically repetitive in our house and can be filled in later. We have developed a roster of favourite recipes that we cycle through every couple of weeks, tried and true favourites that the whole family enjoys.
Our go-to source
A primary source of awesome recipes we love is Skinnytaste.com. All the meals are easy, delicious and healthy. She has a huge variety of dishes and her site is easy to navigate. Gina also has a great weekly meal plan that you can subscribe to, with a new plan delivered to your inbox every week. We’ve also found awesome recipes and pre-written meal plans on the Beachbody blog.
Make your shopping list
As you choose dinners, note down the ingredients needed for each recipe or meal. Then add in what you will need for your breakfasts and lunches. Once the full week is planned out, you should have a shopping list ready to go. Make sure you “shop” in your own kitchen first to make sure you don’t buy something you already have on hand!
Marinate Your Meat Beforehand
One great way to start planning and prepping your meals for the next week is to by your meat in bulk, then marinate it ahead of time. Marinating does take quite a bit of time, so it helps if you can start cooking right after returning home from work or after picking up your kids from school.
Choose different types of marinades for different meats, based on what meals you want to use them for. Some meats that work great as marinating ahead of time include flank steak, pork chops, lamb chops, ribs, and chicken breasts.
Prep Components of Your Meals
Instead of cooking entire meals, just take some time on your day off each week to prep components of your meals. This makes it a lot easier when cooking time comes each day. For example, when you are planning your meals, you can also consider some items that would b easy to prep together.
For example, plan to have a lot of the same veggies in a single week, that can all be baked together. Roasting veggies together and putting them in the same Tupperware container is a lot easier than trying to have a different veggie every night of the week.
Involve Your Kids
If you are stuck on ideas, don’t be afraid to ask your kids for help! They might have some suggestions for their own lunches that are not only healthy, but help you put a varied list together for the following week’s meals. The more input they have in the plan, the more likely they will be to actually eat!