Healthy meal-planning for the humans in your life can be very challenging–especially on top of long hours at work, kids with endless needs, dog walks, or whatever else happens to be on your plate.
It may seem impossible, but I’m here to tell you it’s not! In fact, planning your meals can actually reduce the stress of not having healthy options readily available during your busy work week. It also helps eliminate the impulse to order out or grab something premade/unhealthy.
Here are a few tips I’ve used consistently for over six years now:
Pick a consistent time every week for meal planning. I plan our meals for the next week on Thursday evenings. I research recipes from various sites throughout the week and save them so I can reference them on Thursdays for ideas–that way I don’t feel like I’m starting from square one.
For saving recipes, don’t get caught up in the system–just do whatever works for you–and no matter what, KEEP IT SIMPLE!
Before you plan your meals, take an inventory of what you currently have that needs to be used up. I look in our fridge and cabinets and make a list of the foods I need incorporated into meals to avoid waste.
Before you go shopping, read through all your recipes thoroughly so you don’t overlook anything!
Work ahead. I grocery shop on Fridays after work with a specific list of meals and food needed, and that night I defrost what is needed to cook on Saturday . Saturday afternoons I do as much cooking/ food prep as possible to get ready for the coming week. On Sundays, I defrost anything needed for Monday-Wednesday.
I prep 3-4 days ahead. More than that and food needs to be frozen or it can go bad. If we are gone for the weekend, I meal plan before we leave which often means a late night shopping and cooking on Sunday nights.
Enlist help. After my Saturday cooking frenzy, Dr. Mike and the kids help clean up the kitchen!
Organize your tools. It’s important to have a systematic plan so you aren’t lost in the kitchen without the tools you need. Make sure you have the basics: knives, cutting boards, storage containers, a spiralizer or food processor. I’m often cooking a few things at different stages at once.
It took me several years to find a system that worked for me. Just try something out and adjust it to your specific schedule and needs. The more planning you do, the less stressed you’ll be, and the happier your pets (and other family members) will be too!
Quick & Easy Meal Idea
Here’s a meal my whole family loves, even the kids! It’s a great easy option for leftover steak. Just toss together:
Mixed greens Cilantro Mint Grilled peaches Steak Candied ginger Cucumbers Lime juice Olive oil Apple cider vinegar Toasted sunflower seeds
Adjust based on your family’s preferences and what’s on hand!
Here’s one option for planning out your meals. Feel free to download it and customize it to fit your needs.