Fail to (meal) plan, plan to fail!
Cooking meals at home is key to making impactful, healthy changes to your diet. However, meal planning out what you’re going to prepare ahead of time is crucial for success.
Here are 5 steps to help you organize your menu, feel prepared when your go to the store and meal plan like a boss!
Step 1: Plan The Menu!
Decide what you’re going to eat for meals/snacks this week and schedule them on a blank calendar.
You can use any calender template but if you want to get our meal planning calender, you can get it sent to your e-mail here!
Be sure to at the serving sizes of each recipe and consider whether there will be leftovers for you or your family. You intentionally can double a recipe if you want leftovers or halve one if the serving size is too big.
Pro-tip: if your family really loves a recipe, record it in a special Family Recipe Notebook with family favorites for quick, go-to recipes. Over time, you’ll save time recipe-hunting and won’t have to worry about pleasing picky eaters because you’ll have a collection of foolproof ideas.
I plan meals week-by-week, then hang the menu on my fridge for easy reference.
Step 2: Make a List, Check it Twice!
Write a big ol’ list of every ingredient needed for your recipes and the amount needed to prepare each recipe in no particular order.
Be sure to write down every stinkin’ ingredient so you don’t miss anything!
It may seem like overkill, but nothing is worse than missing a key spice or food item because you forgot to write it down. Trust me, I’ve learned this lesson the hard waaay too many times.
Need 1:1 accountability and help with meal planning & weight loss?
Apply to our virtual Daily Accountability Program (DAP) today!
Step 3: Kitchen Audit!
Go through your list while physically checking your pantry or fridge.
If you already have an ingredient on hand, double check to make sure you have enough for your recipe.
Once you 100% confirm you have the ingredient in stock, cross it off your initial list!
Step 4: Polish It Up
Rewrite your list in order of the store route you take (i.e, Produce, Deli, Aisles, Freezer, etc).
Does this seem like overkill? Maybe.
Does it save you more time in the long run? Absolutely!
It’s no fun making it all the way through the store just to remember you forgot to grab tomatoes when you first walked in. Routing your trip is a time-saving investment and keeps the shopping experience pleasant.
If you’re shopping online due to COVID-19, I still recommend rewriting your list according to category (meat, seasoning, etc).
Step 5: Check, Check, Check!
As soon as an ingredient hits the cart, cross that bad boy off your list.
Talk about satisfying! I always keep a pen in my purse and car console for this exact reason.
Pro-tip: double check before paying that you’ve crossed every item off. Some ingredients get lost in the list!
- Check what you have on hand before you start meal planning. This can help you use up groceries before they go bad.
- Elevate a few ingredients. For example, pick at least 2 recipes that both use butternut squash (i.e Quinoa Butternut Squash, Kale, and Chicken Bake and Black Bean & Butternut Squash Enchiladas). Then, choose at least one ingredient from those recipes (black beans) and use it in a 3rd recipe (Salsa Chicken and Black Bean Power Bowl). Then, use an ingredient (quinoa) from any recipe for a 4th meal (Quinoa Buddha Bowl).
- Can you swap any ingredients for things you already have? I.e, spinach for kale, black beans for pinto beans, quinoa for rice, vegetable broth for chicken broth, etc.
- Plan meals that use perishable ingredients for the beginning of the week.
- Stock up on frozen or canned goods as back-ups. They’re just as nutritious. You can also freeze most foods if they’re about to go bad- fruits, veggies, greens, beans, chilis/soups.
If you found this method for meal planning to be helpful, be sure share your success on Instagram & tag us @nutrition.awareness.
Disclaimer: Some blog posts may contain one or more affiliate links. All opinions are my own.
Kait Richardson is a registered dietitian nutritionist in Orlando, FL. She is a partner at a private practice, Nutrition Awareness, where she helps frustrated yo-yo dieters reach their health goals using 1:1 nutrition coaching. She is the co-host of the Nutrition Awareness Podcast.