Happy New Year! One of the best things about a new year is that feeling of starting fresh, starting a new routine or habit, everything is reset in a way. One of my goals many years ago was to start meal planning once a week. It’s a habit I still use to this day (yay!) and is something that has evolved over the years. That being said, there are so many different ways to meal plan and one way can work better over another depending on who the user is.
When you take the time to plan your meals for the week, you are mentally and physically preparing yourself to make healthy choices. Sure, you might go out to eat, or choose to make something different but if you have a meal plan then you have the backbone for healthy options.
When it comes to meal planning there are low-tech and high-tech ways of doing things- from back-to-basics pen and paper to websites that do all the planning, create a grocery list and even some that will send the groceries right to your front door! When the dietitians in our office got together to talk about meal planning there was definitely a pattern of food planning basics:
1. Have a routine day designated for meal planning and shopping.
Pick a day and time that works for you where you can be undisturbed while you make your plan or you might choose a time when the family is around so you can ask for input! Your planning days can be different than your shopping days- make up your own rules, just be consistent!
2. Take stock of what is on hand.
What is in your pantry/fridge/freezer that needs to be used? Can of garbanzo beans, chicken in the freezer, eggs in the fridge (how many eggs are in that carton? Ten or two?). Personal sidenote: around Thanksgiving I was making room in my freezer for the turkey and found 3 half bags of frozen chopped spinach!
3. Think about schedules- who is eating?
Look at the calendar and see what’s going on for the week. Find where you need to cook a meal or pack a lunch. Think about how many people are eating for each meal- I’m usually planning meals for two adults but there are some weeks where I’m flying solo. Adrien has weeks where she plans for her and her husband and others where they have three kiddos to plan for as well.
4. Plug meals into a calendar and make a grocery list.
Find what method works for you- paper, electronic, white board etc. As you are plugging meals in to the calendar, make a grocery list. Some of us here at iLive Well don’t plan out set breakfasts- we usually just plan on one or two different items to have during the week and make sure those items we need are on our grocery lists. Also, see where you can fit in leftovers. Since I’m cooking for two most dinners, I plan on having leftovers for lunch the days following- cook once, eat twice! You could also pop single servings of leftovers into the freezer for a quick meal. For tips on how to plan actual meals see our post here.
5. Go to the store!
Adrien Paczosa is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian practicing in Austin, Texas and the surrounding counties.
She is the owner and founder of I Live Well Nutrition her Dietitian practice which started in 2007 and serves clients in the Austin, Texas area in two locations. Fearless Practitioners, the division of her business that offers training to dietitians and wellness professionals.