It’s that time of year again when we all resolve to improve our diet, lose weight, save money, get organized, and manage our time better. At least, these are some of the most common New Year’s resolutions. If you have set one or more of these goals, meal planning can help you succeed. If you have not meal planned before or found that the method you used just did not work for you, here are my top tips for success.
- Check your schedule. How many meals do you want to plan for? How much time do you have for meal preparation? Is the available time in the morning or evening? If you will have limited time plan for simple, quick meals such as found in dietitian Heather’s Near Instant Cooking blog. If available time is in the morning, consider planning slow cooker meals or doing some preparation in the morning.
- Start small. If you are new to meal planning, don’t feel that you need to plan for a full seven days. Just plan for two or three days to start, or just plan for dinner.
- Scope out your fridge, pantry, and freezer for items that might need to be used up soon. This can save you money by helping to reduce food waste, plus I often find I have everything I need for a quick weeknight meal.
- Check the ad for foods that you can build a meal around. Look for seasonal produce as it can be less expensive than canned or frozen and may taste better.
- Involve other household members in your meal planning. If you have children, have them choose a meal each week with stipulations (e.g., must include a vegetable); if they are old enough, have them create a shopping list for their meal.
- Build some flexibility into your plan so that you can skip a night if something interesting comes up. I usually do this by planning at least one meal per week of pantry and/or freezer staples or a meal that I made and froze.
- Plan a meal to use up ingredients that you will have left over from other meals in the week. Egg dishes, soups and salads are great meals to use up ingredients.
- If you have a meal that freezes well, plan to prepare a double batch and freeze half for another week. Your future self will thank you. Wondering if you can freeze something? Check out Dietitian Genevieve’s You Can Freeze That? blog.
- Take some time to evaluate your plan. Are your meals balanced? Is there a protein, a vegetable and/or fruit, and a whole grain or starchy vegetable? If not, what can you add to create balanced meals?
- When making your shopping list, take the time to check that you have everything you need as this will save you an extra trip to the store when you realize that you are out of a pantry staple.
I hope that meal planning helps you to meet your goals. If you’d like to contact a dietitian for help with health goals, please email email@example.com.