Meal planning can help you eat healthier and waste less food. It's better for the whole family. Here are all my tips to make meal planning a success at your house! 😛
Eating at home is a great place to start when you are trying to eat cleaner. Restaurant food is usually packed with calories and generally has more trans fats as well. Home cooked food is way healthier for you and you have total control over what goes into it.
By the way, don't confuse meal planning with meal prepping. Meal planning simply means that you plan your meals, make a list and shop for those ingredients. You do not make the meals ahead of time... unless you are a rockstar and you want to.
Why Meal Plan?
- It reduces dinner time stress. Having a plan for even three nights out of the week makes my life so much easier. It's amazing how stressful it can be to think about dinner at 5:30 when everyone is home and my teenagers are constantly saying "I'm hungry, what's for dinner?" Having a plan is golden.
- You can eat real whole foods and follow a clean diet with just a little bit of planning. It's harder to make good choices when you are scrambling at the last minute to make dinner. Make a healthy plan, buy the ingredients and you don't have much choice!
- It saves money. When I go to the store without a plan I put things in my cart that I don't need. If I don't have a plan for them they shouldn't be going in the cart.
- It reduces food waste. I find that when I meal plan I am less likely to buy that bunch of asparagus that might never get eaten. When I buy it, I have a plan for it. And I start my meal planning by assessing what I have left in the fridge to use.
How To Meal Plan
- Start by cleaning out your fridge each week before you go to the store. If I have food I need to move I incorporate these into my plan. I look in the freezer to see what meat needs to be eaten. I also look ahead at the calendar to see if I have a day where there will be a bunch of teenagers at my house. If so, I make a meal plan for them.
- Choose a quiet time to sit ALONE and look over recipes deciding what you want to make that week. I like to do this on Sunday mornings while the kids are asleep and before church. I feel so settled when I have my planner filled out. It's blissful! I choose my recipes from several places...
- a binder full of recipes that I have kept for ages, I take the time during the week to look at magazines and websites, I print out the ones I want to try
- a smaller folder that I keep at the ready with family favorite dinners (no-fail recipes that will be eaten by everyone, including the dog Cooper... JK) this just keeps me from looking through the big binder for easy dinner recipes every time
- my recipe index at Seasonal Cravings (shameless plug!)
- WARNING: never under any circumstances should you try more than one new meal per week - this is just my opinion but I like to keep it simple with 90% recipes I know they will eat, and one new one that I am trying out.
- Ask your children and spouse what they like to eat and keep those ideas in that same small folder. My teens tend to say popcorn shrimp, pizza, bagel bites, etc. but at least they think I am taking their ideas into consideration. The hubs likes things like chicken lettuce wraps and pot roast that has been simmered all day.
- MAKE NOTES - sorry to shout but I never remember who liked what or what changes I made to a recipe unless I write them down. I make the notes right on the recipe, print out and put it back in the folder.
- Check what is on sale. ➡ It only takes a few minutes to look at the supermarket circular online and then decide oh I'll make pork tenderloin bc it's buy one, get one this week.
- Always pick at least two no brainer dishes. You know those ones that your family never tires of and they always eat? For us, those are turkey or beef tacos, spaghetti with meatballs or meat sauce, Grilled Chicken Souvlaki, hamburgers, honey mustard pork tenderloin and steak with Montreal Steak seasoning. Did I mention steak? They could eat that 24/7.
- Keep your pantry stocked with Clean Eating Pantry Staples and when you run out immediately write them a list you keep in the kitchen. I love having dressings and marinades on hand to marinate meat at the last minute.
How to Meal Plan for Busy Teens
I have a few tips for meal planning for teens. Our lives are busy! My daughter plays volleyball, my son plays rugby and my youngest plays basketball. I have two teens who commute to DC every day to go to high school. It's crazy around here. 😕
So I have found that we are not always sitting around the dinner table connecting and talking about our days. I wish we were but that's just not always possible.
The easiest thing to do on those nights is to have meals that can be assembled. That means I may have grilled chicken, leftover pork tenderloin or taco meat in the fridge. My kids can make their own taco bowls or quesadillas with ease. I often have leftover rice and I always have frozen Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice that they can microwave. They will add some baby carrots or cut cucumbers and make it a meal.
Having food prepped is a life saver with teenagers. Have you seen how much teenage boys can eat? It's crazy.
If you have any questions about meal planning please leave them in the comments below! I'd love to chat!