While it is true that eating delicious food takes very little effort, preparing it generally requires a bit more thought. The good news? The more often you do it, the easier it becomes! If you’re just starting out, meal prepping can seem like quite a chore, but these tips for weekly meal planning can simplify the process significantly.
Keep Your Diet Healthy, Simple, and Exciting
All too often, diet plans fail due to boredom, hectic schedules, or a combination of both. In turn, this usually leads to falling off the “healthy-eating wagon.” Instead of reaching for a nutrient-dense snack or meal, you end up going for something fast and (usually) unhealthy. This is one of the main reasons that it’s worth it to take the time to plan and prepare nutritious recipes for the week. After all, can you put a value on a couple of hours if it will improve your health?
What is Meal Planning?
Meal planning is the process that you go through to prepare a meal, all the way from start to finish. It includes selecting a recipe, buying the ingredients, making the meal, and even dividing it into proper portion sizes.
Everyone will have a different process for meal prepping, so you’ll need to find what works best for you. Along with developing your own process, it’s up to you to decide how many meals you want to make in advance. Your primary goal should be to find a process that is time-efficient, enjoyable, and—most importantly—allows you to provide nutritious meals for yourself and your loved ones.
13 Tips for Weekly Meal Planning
You can opt to use all of these tips for weekly meal planning, or you can pick and choose! Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. The best way to develop the perfect process for you is to learn by trial and error. Before you know it, you’ll be a meal planning expert!
1. Spend a little time searching for tasty recipes
If you already have a few recipes in mind, start with those. When you’re ready for something new, our recipe database is a great place to find all kinds of delicious and nutritious recipes! If you’re planning the whole week, we recommend starting with one or two recipes per meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Choose recipes with several servings so you can take advantage of the leftovers.
2. Check the fridge for useful ingredients
Before you choose recipes or make a shopping list, check the refrigerator. If you have something with an expiration date, like chicken, fish, or fresh vegetables, try to find a recipe that goes with these ingredients to prevent them from going to waste.
3. Scan the ads and clip coupons
Another helpful tip for saving money is to look at the weekly ads for sales. This is especially helpful for the more expensive items, meat, seafood, and organic produce. Then, use the sale items as the basis to select recipes and build your meal plan for the week.
4. Find a neat and orderly way to organize the recipes you choose
Once you’ve chosen a few recipes for the week, you’re going to need a way to keep track of them! I like to save the recipes I plan to make on Pinterest. You could also print them out or bookmark them on your browser.
5. Create a calendar for dinner each night of the week
After a while, you’ll have quite a few recipes to choose from. Once you select the ones you’re going to prepare this week, write them down on the calendar. Also include when you’re going to eat the leftovers. This will help you stay organized and ensure that nothing goes to waste!
6. Have plenty of storage containers in different sizes
It’s extremely helpful to have an assortment of containers on hand. This allows you to store the large batches of food that you prepare, as well as separate each meal into individual portions. Portioning out serving sizes ahead of time will make the coming days easier!
7. Keep a well-stocked pantry
Most recipes require similar ingredients called pantry staples. Stock up on things like spices, quinoa, oats, flour, and more to keep yourself from having to purchase them each week. This will also prove beneficial if you have a midweek meal to prep.
8. Choose a shopping and meal-prep day
Taking one day out of the week to shop and meal prep is the best way to save time. Most people choose Sunday, but you can choose whichever day works best for you. Even if you don’t cook all of your meals at once, you should still select one day as your main meal-prep day.
Check out: The Busy Woman’s Guide to Meal Prepping
9. Make a shopping list
Now that you know which recipes to use and what ingredients you still need to get, create a shopping list! Aside from everything you’ll need to make your meals, remember to get ingredients for healthy snacks as well.
10. Prep and portion as many ingredients as you can
Once you get home from the grocery store, prep as many ingredients as you can. This includes things like washing and chopping produce, portioning out snacks like nuts and seeds into baggies, making dressings, marinating proteins, and so on!
11. Cook main components in large batches
Another tip that can save you an incredible amount of time (and stress) is to cook large batches of things like chicken, beef, and rice. You can use them in so many different types of recipes! This works best if you select recipes that use similar foods each week.
12. Remember: The freezer is your friend
Depending on how busy your schedule is, you may not know when you’ll have free time for meal prep. If you have the time right now, prepare your meals now and freeze them in individual portions for later!
Check out: How to Pack Your Freezer Meals Like a Pro
13. Don’t forget about the leftovers
We’ve already touched on this topic, but we want to address it one more time for our beginner meal planners! One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not utilizing the leftovers. If you can stomach eating a meal once or even twice more, it will save you so much time and money.
Which one of these tips for weekly meal planning do you find most helpful? Do you have any special meal prepping tips that you use? Let us know in the comment section below!
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