Most people nowadays live a fast and hectic life, leaving them with little time for themselves. If you add grocery shopping and cooking for the whole family, there isn’t any time left. Planning your meals and shopping is advisable to make life more optimal and healthier. It saves you time and money, and you can be sure you eat healthily. Keep reading to learn more about eating right as a family with our guide to healthy meal planning.
Before we start with the practical tips on planning your meals, we will discuss some of the benefits of meal planning, which include saving time and money, reducing stress and adding variety. Regarding the actual meal planning advice, it is best to start with the weekday calendar. Also, you should create a 2-3 week menu cycle and generate a shopping list. It would be good if you could use weekends for meal prep. For a meal plan to be healthy, it has to consist of several essential things – keep reading to learn what they are. We will also share tips for dealing with picky eaters, which can sometimes be challenging. Lastly, you should stock up on adequate dishes and utensils for more optimal meal planning.
Benefits of meal planning
It saves time
The first benefit of meal planning is that it saves time. We all know how valuable time is for each one of us. Planning all the meals for your family and the upcoming week allows you to manage your time during a busy week better. When there is a meal plan, you don’t have to waste time thinking about what you will eat or wandering around a grocery store. Having more free time during the week allows you to do something for yourself, such as go to a reformer pilates class or the gym. These are also essential aspects of a healthy lifestyle.
It saves money
Besides saving time, which is priceless, meal planning also saves money. When you plan your weekly meals, you know exactly what you will make and how much. So, you know exactly what you need to buy. That helps in preventing you from overbuying things or from buying unnecessary things. Research has shown that shoppers without a grocery list spend about 40% more. It also eliminates food waste if you use all the ingredients according to the plan.
It reduces stress
Meal planning doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to cook. You can also buy takeout or eat leftovers when you are (unexpectedly) busy. Meal planning in any form reduces stress by eliminating ‘what’s for dinner’ considerations.
It adds variety
Another benefit of meal planning is that it adds variety to your diet. We can easily get into the rut of constantly preparing the same meals. When you plan your meals, on the other hand, you can be more creative and add various kinds of food to the planned menu. In that way, you ensure getting more nutritionally balanced meals.
How to plan your meals
Now that you know more about the benefits of meal planning, you surely want to learn how to do meal planning.
Start with the weekday calendar
The first step is to start with the weekday calendar. What we mean by this is that you get a calendar and colour code it with everyone’s obligations. That way, you will know who is home at what time so you can adjust meals accordingly. It can be on paper or digital, however you prefer. Remember to note all school obligations as well as extracurricular activities.
Create a 2-3 week menu cycle
Next, you should create a 2-3 week menu cycle. If you are new to meal planning, start with one week and then upgrade it as you go. Ideally, you should have a meal plan for 2-3 weeks. You can write down some meals you already make, or you can use the internet as well to diversify your meals. Go for simple recipes with everyday healthy ingredients.
Generate a shopping list
When you create a menu for 2 to 3 weeks, you can deduct all the necessary ingredients and their amounts. In that way, you will be shopping only for things you need. To save even more time, you can order the groceries online. You can also use handy applications for creating a shopping list.
Use weekends for meal prep
As our weekdays tend to be pretty busy with work, household obligations and kids’ obligations, we don’t have much free time. That’s why it would be good to use weekends for meal prep. You can do the shopping, chop fruits and veggies, and semi-prepare food for the week. It will save you a lot of time during the week.
Essential components of every healthy meal plan
Even though you might be under the wrong impression that healthy meal plans are complicated, it is not. Healthy meal planning is fairly simple. You do, however, need to know a little bit about essential foods to include in your healthy meal planning. We will share the cornerstones of the nutritious diet with you. They include whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, nuts and seeds.
Additionally, protein in quality meat such as chicken and fish and vegetarian sources such as quinoa, lentils and tofu. You should avoid refined carbohydrates, sugars or snacks with health claims. Of course, plenty of water.
When it comes to picky eaters, it is sometimes difficult to make them eat everything served.
Ensure that there are always your children’s favourite foods on the menu.
Keep the meal plan simple and involve your kids in meal planning.
Introduce theme nights and be consistent.
Stock up on adequate dishes and utensils
To do meal prep correctly, you should stock up on adequate dishes and utensils, such as glass jars and containers, zip-lock bags and similar things. You should also have the necessary utensils for preparing the meals.
Everybody can plan healthy meals for their family with a little effort on their side. It is definitely something worth doing.