Meal planning, it makes your life so much easier. And on top of that, you can better maintain your healthy lifestyle if you organize your meals in advance.
In the beginning you will have to set aside some time to do this but as you have made several meal plans, you will get the hang of this very quickly and it will become easier and more efficient.
10 helpful tips for meal planning
The biggest factors why you reach for fast food or unhealthy alternatives is – time and organization. No one feels like starting a torrid cooking session after a long day at work. So the golden tip: plan your meals! Here are already 10 helpful tips that can make your life easier (and healthier):
- Schedule a weekly set time to plan your menu for the following week. I do this the Thursday evening (when the kids are in bed), well in time for Saturday morning shopping.
- List some favorite recipes that you and your family enjoy. Flip through your favorite cookbooks and/or food blogs and jot down some recipes you’d like to try.
- Involve the family. Ask your children what they would like to eat again. Children will be more inclined to eat healthier if they are involved in choosing meals from time to time. Let them cook along too, and they’ll want to taste their own creation anyway!
- Stick to a certain routine or theme each day/evening. Start your weekly planning on the first day of or after your shopping. E.g. Saturday meat, Sunday and Monday chicken, Tuesday and Wednesday fish, Thursday vegetarian and Friday cheese. Or Saturday pizza, Sunday and Monday casserole, Tuesday stew, Wednesday pasta, Thursday quiche, Friday leftovers, etc. That way you have a base around which you can work and vary with other vegetables and preparation methods. I have experimented with this myself and it has changed a few times (e.g. winter and summer is often a bit different – salads vs stews), but it has always given me a guideline and made me think less about weekly planning. When I find new recipes that I would like to make, I save them already on the night under which the “theme” falls. Very convenient!
- Think several days ahead. Cook more than you need each time so that you also have a lunch for the next day, or can freeze leftovers for the next week when you can’t or don’t want to cook. You can also prepare certain vegetables for different meals. For example, roast a large portion of sweet potato (as much as will fit in the oven), eat it the1st evening as a side dish with chicken and use the rest as a stew with fish the following evening.
- During menu planning, also make a shopping list right away. However, if you do browse through the recipes, you can immediately note what you need, so you don’t have to do it later.
TIP: I use the free OurGroceries app for this, where I can make a list by store. My husband François can access those same lists through his app and check them off when something is purchased. My lists consist of
- Fish Shop
- Action/Ikea ☺
As soon as I run out of a particular herb or ingredient, I note it in the appropriate list and then I don’t forget to purchase them on the next (online) shopping trip.
- Think in seasons: You already have a guideline through the week, now fill it in with specific vegetables of the season. Or select recipes based on the season. Go to the market and try a new vegetable every now and then, variety is key for a healthy diet! Also, use as many different colors as possible because each color has specific health benefits. This is how you make sure you get all your nutrients.
- Meal prepping on set days! Pick a specific day when you prepare some things for the week = clean and cut some vegetables and store them in airtight jars in the fridge, this way you can get started quickly when cooking and/or have a healthy snack ready (with some hummus on the side). Make a dish for several days far.
We ourselves regularly do some “batch cooking” on Sunday afternoons, which is when we cook 2-3 dishes and snacks (including almost always banana bread ☺ and soup in the winter) in succession and freeze them in portions. This way you only have to do the dishes once and can start the week with a full fridge/freezer. This gives peace of mind and also makes sure you always have something tasty and healthy ready so you don’t have to reach for the unhealthy snacks when you are very hungry.
- Anti foodwaste – On the last day of your planned week, cook up all the leftovers. Fill your pantry with canned beans and tomatoes, couscous, quinoa, buckwheat, canned fish, etc. get all your leftover vegetables, meat, eggs, cheese out of the fridge and add to these as needed from your pantry. These are sometimes the most creative and delicious meals and this is immensely satisfying, believe me!
- Eat, Repeat – If you’ve picked out tasty recipes or you’ve been able to make a successful weekly schedule for 1 month far, make it easy on yourself and reuse that same schedule for the next month. Repeating one week I personally find a bit too little variety, because remember: variety is key!
Do you have any helpful tips? Let us know!