Planning out your meals is a great way to save yourself precious resources such as time, money, and brain power. I'm no expert, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to be efficient before the grocery haul. Here’s what I've learned so that you can also get tasty, healthy meals on the table for yourself and your family!
1. Plan one week at a time.
This is the sweet spot for us. Planning for a longer stretch leads to spoiled produce, while planning for less time leads to feeling annoyed at the frequency of your shopping trips. And let’s be real, you don’t want to spend all of your time meal planning or shopping when you still have to MAKE the food.
2. Plan breakfast and lunches loosely.
There’s something so draining about “meal planning” when you write down a menu that you end up not wanting to eat - like waking up with cereal on the menu when you really want eggs. To solve this problem, I make a list of three breakfast & three lunch options and purchase enough for the week (even though they rarely change). Oftentimes I won’t need to pick up those items again the following week and nothing goes to waste!
Here are my three options...
- Turkey bacon, avocado and tomato sandwich
- Cereal with banana
- Hard boiled egg with sauteed zucchini and toast
- Bell peppers with tuna and slice of toast
- Peanut butter and banana open-face sandwich with carrot sticks
- Deli meat and cheese wrap with veggies and a side of yogurt
I have all these healthy and tasty options on hand (as well as leftovers!) so I don’t get bored with my meals.
3. Make a plan and fill in the blanks.
Every week, I follow the same category plan and simply fill in different foods based on my cravings. The categories I follow week to week are as follows: two chicken meals, two “other meat” meals, one soup, one salad.
To start, I would suggest creating categories you love and look to balance them. First, I'll give you the meals within the categories I usually stick to and then show you some other examples.
Here’s this past weeks meal plan:
- Chicken #1: Roasted tarragon chicken with carrots, onions, and parsnips
- Chicken #2: BBQ chicken fajita with cheddar, red pepper, and green onion
- Other meat #1: Sausage, pepper, onion, zucchini, and goat cheese frittata
- Other meat #2: Cashew crusted tilapia with lime beet slaw and cumin zucchini
- Soup: Kale, lentil, and sausage soup
- Salad: Walnut crusted goat cheese salad with pear, cranberries, spinach, and raspberry vinaigrette
My categories are based on the main part of the meal (usually a protein) which I then supplement with other ingredients. You can certainly change it up and add others foods to your own list, such as beef, fish, pork, pasta, potato, etc. Also feel free to go a different direction entirely! Instead of making up your categories out of specific food-types, try basing them on different cuisines such as Asian, Thai, Indian, Italian, American, Mexican, etc. You can also create your categories by the amount of time the meal takes to make (such as crock pot vs. “stirring frequently").
The point is simply to have categories set in place so you can have both variety and ease when it’s time to sit down and plan out your meals.
I'll leave you with one last quick tip: Since there are only two people in my family, I try to plan meals using similar ingredients. Considering I always make two meals with chicken meat, I purchase a whole organic bird weekly and butcher it right when I get home from the store. I remove the breasts and use them for one meal, the legs and wings for another, and the bones for broth for my soup! Bam. Immediately breaking the bird down allows for meal flexibility should I want soup before the meals made with the meat.
I hope that this was helpful! Have any questions, tips, or tricks? Leave those in the comments!