Meal planning can save both time and money by cutting back on grocery shopping trips and food waste, while helping you eat healthier by making sure all your meals and snacks fit within your daily caloric intake allowance.
Start by designating one day each week as the day for planning, shopping and meal prepping. Take advantage of store ads and coupons as you stock up on items that take longer to cook such as whole grains, fish, chicken and beans.
Identify Your Meals
One of the first steps of meal planning is taking an inventory of what meals are already on hand, enabling you to craft an efficient plan utilizing what food already exists in your pantry, freezer and refrigerator. Doing this also reduces waste when perishable items like produce or leftovers can be used again in another dish later on in the week.
Many meal planning templates feature a day/meal chart, with each day written across the top and the type of meal (e.g. breakfast, lunch or dinner) listed down the side. These plans can be as straightforward or intricate as desired by their users.
Calorie counters can be an extremely helpful feature of meal plan templates, enabling people to track how many calories they’re consuming and ensure they remain within their calorie goal. Some diets, like Weight Watchers’ Program, require that certain foods be limited or eliminated entirely; dietitians often employ this strategy in helping clients meet specific health and nutrition objectives.
For those aiming to shed extra pounds, there are various meal plan templates designed specifically to promote portion control based on Registered Dietitians’ recommendations.
Some meal planning templates also include a list of food groups and the recommended number of servings per week, while for those needing to monitor food allergies there are templates with color-coded systems for easily identifying common allergens such as eggs, gluten and dairy. Furthermore, these meal plans often have sections dedicated to writing down meal requests from family members which ensure everyone’s preferences are taken into consideration when creating plans.
Beginner meal planners should focus on finding recipes that align with their budget, schedule, and cooking abilities. Start by perusing weekly sale circulars from local grocery stores or using an app like Flipp to aggregate store fliers – once you discover some “recipe all-stars,” meal planning will become much quicker!
Variate flavors, cuisine types and proteins to add variety to your meals, and consider recipes with multiple uses (for instance black bean corn salad can be eaten alone one day and turned into quesadilla filling on another day). It’s also helpful to keep weather conditions in mind–if rain threatens, soup may be on the agenda! Save any recipes you come across to Cozi for easy reference when meal planning; many meal planning apps like Paprika and AnyList feature built-in grocery lists so that when ingredients appear within recipes they automatically get added automatically!
Make a Grocery List
Meal planning may seem tedious and time consuming, but creating a grocery list will save money on food. Instead of wandering aimlessly around stores looking for milk or chicken and purchasing things that will go bad before being used up, knowing exactly which ingredients to purchase can reduce stress during an otherwise tiring shopping trip by eliminating U-turns, aisles you don’t need to visit, and impulse buys.
Before compiling your shopping list, conduct an inventory of what’s already in your fridge, freezer and pantry. This can help provide inspiration for creating delicious recipes from what is on hand and minimize waste. Furthermore, this step can serve to cross check that all required items are on your list in order to prevent duplicate purchases that could end up costing extra later on.
Most meal plan templates include space for you to make a grocery list, but you can also easily create one using free tools such as spreadsheets and notepads, shopping apps or shopping services. It is beneficial to organize the list by store sections as this will make shopping faster and more efficiently; consider also creating a separate line for “snack foods” that may not require refrigeration and have longer shelf lives.
When living with roommates or a significant other, sharing your meal plan and grocery list is vital to meeting everyone’s needs and preventing multiple trips to the store. Many meal plan templates include space to write a note to remind yourself to pick up extra items such as milk, ice cubes or cartons of egg whites if needed. Furthermore, some offer tracking food servings which is especially beneficial if weight management is an objective of your plan.
Make a Plan
Make the most of each week by planning out what meals to eat by creating a weekly meal plan. Planning ahead allows you to avoid last-minute scrambling and the risk of resorting to drive-thrus or takeout restaurants after a hard day at work, keeping to healthy diet and budget constraints simultaneously.
Start by taking inventory of what’s already in your pantry and fridge to help narrow down your options and save on groceries, according to registered dietitian nutritionist Stacey Simon of her New York City practice.
If you have ingredients that can be used in multiple recipes (for instance chicken and sweet potatoes), find meals which highlight them to create more variety while using any leftovers as lunch or another dinner option.
Planning meals may take some effort upfront, but in the long run it will help save on grocery bills if you shop sales. Make use of online or store apps to find coupons and keep track of local offerings such as rice, pasta, frozen vegetables and sauces on sale; when they go on sale make bulk purchases to see savings on your weekly grocery bill! You will thank yourself later when the savings add up!
Plan on cooking one or two nights each week, using leftovers as lunch and/or snacks on days with lighter schedules. While it may initially seem daunting, once established it can make life much less stressful!
Though meal planning may help people with specific goals like weight loss or cholesterol improvements, others do it simply to reduce stress and stay within budget. Athletes commonly plan their meals as this ensures that they’ll have sufficient fuel to perform at their best. No matter what the reason is behind your planning journey, there’s sure to be one tailored specifically to you and it starts here – grab a pen and paper (or an app!) and start exploring.