Hello and Happy Fall! It’s officially my favorite season, I’m just waiting for the cool weather to really kick in! Today I wanted to talk about meal planning, and share a free download with you to help you start meal planning like a pro!
Before starting my project back in June, I didn’t really plan ahead. My lack of planning made grocery shopping more expensive; I’d just grab whatever I wanted and try to map out a plan in my head as I went. It also made it easier to decide that I didn’t want to cook. There were many nights that ended in take out or leftovers because I just didn’t feel like having to figure out what to cook and then cook it.
Part of starting the Fed+Fit project was planning which meals I wanted to cook from he book and making sure we had enough for all three meals. I decided it would be easier to stick to if I had it written out and posted somewhere, because then my husband would keep me accountable to it as well. It also helps that he would regularly ask “what’s for dinner?” and now he can just look at the fridge and know what’s coming. I also added a section to note my weekly workouts, but in full transparency, that section has been empty for several weeks.
I started with a blank spreadsheet and would color code each meal… that was fun but more time consuming than I wanted. I ended up simplifying my planner (i.e. no more color coding), and I’ve been using it weekly ever since. There are times where we may make last minute changes, and I haven’t been cooking to many new recipes recently, but having a plan posted each week has made it much easier to stick to eating healthy meals at home.
It’s also helped our grocery budget because I (mostly) only buy the food that I know we’ll need that week. I’m trying out a new way to budget, so I’ve been more aware of how much I spend on grocery trips, and this past month I was able to keep it to near or under $100 each week. Considering I do half of my shopping at Whole Foods, I was pretty proud of myself! I know meal planning has a lot to do with my frugal shopping trips, because I’m less likely to impulsively buy food that we don’t need (i.e. ‘treats’).
Ready to get started with your own weekly meal planning? I’ve done some of the work for you by creating a blank template; all you need to do it fill in the meals each week. You can get a free download of my meal planning template here. Need some tips on how to get started with meal planning? I’ve got you covered there too:
- Be aware of what your week looks like – plan meals according to how busy your day is so you’re not overwhelmed or out of time.
- Try new recipes – pick a cookbook or cooking website that you enjoy and choose a few recipes that look good. It keeps cooking interesting and you have something new and exciting to look forward to!
- Mix it up – I try to eat a variety of animals and plants to get a wider variety of nutrients in our diets, so I like to vary our dinners. Chicken one day, pork the next, etc.
- Ask for requests – especially if you have kids or a picky husband! Get them involved in the planning and ask what they’d like to eat (or help cook!). If you’re trying to expand your kid’s (or husband’s) diet, show them 2-3 recipes or pictures and ask which one they want to pick for dinner that week. This way they’re involved, but their choices are narrowed down to options that you want make. (sneaky moms for the win)
- Make a list of your go-to favorite meals – our go-to meals are cyclical; we make something every 1-2 weeks for a few months, and then we find something new that we like and that becomes our new go-to, and so on. Having a list of easy, crowd pleasing meals will make planning and cooking much easier on those days were you just don’t have time. I call these the “easy button meals”. 🙂
- Freeze leftovers – especially if you’re not a fan of cooking daily, having frozen meals ready to go will save you time, money, and frustration. I intentionally cook more than enough for two people so that I have leftovers for lunch, and then whatever’s left at the end of the week goes into the freezer.
This has honestly been one of the easiest healthy habits for me to keep, because it takes maybe 10-15 minutes of effort to come up with a plan, and sets me up for success for the whole week. Do you meal plan regularly? What are some of your go-to tips and tricks?