Meal Planning Made Simple

Have you ever tried to stick to a meal plan? What about planning all your meals for the week on Sunday, only to find that meal you made is so not what you want to eat on Friday? Meal planning does not have to be as difficult or time consuming as you think. It’s actually quite simple once you get the hang of it. I’m sharing my 5 rules to planning killer meals below so you never have to resort to takeout (unless you really want to) again.

Go to the store with the end product in mind

When you’re about to do your weekly grocery shopping, it’s unrealistic to expect a new and different breakfast, lunch, and dinner every night of the week. Pick two to three recipes or dishes that you can enjoy all week and have those in mind as you create your shopping list. Having the end product in mind (mmm, Chicken Cacciatore) will help you put exactly what you need on your list, and make your trip a whole lot faster.

Choose recipes/dishes with overlapping ingredients

When choosing your recipes or dishes, don’t make them so wildly different that you’re spending hundreds of dollars just to throw together a few meals. Pick a few dishes that have one or two common ingredients to make meal prep faster and easier.

Try this: Have your family pick an “ingredient of the week” to help you narrow down your choices. For example, if you choose red bell peppers, you can make a dish of stuffed peppers and a dish of chicken fajita bake. Easy peasy.

Identify your pantry and fridge staples

There are a few things I pretty much always have in my house: peanut butter, almond milk, kale or arugula, bananas, seasonal fruit (grapes and clementines right now), eggs, and oatmeal. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy all of these things, it just means that I’ve identified the healthy foods that I like, and can prepare easily. These foods are always on my shopping list which makes on-the-fly breakfast and lunches super easy. 

Always have a shopping list

Do not; I repeat, do not go to the store without a shopping list. I consider myself a meal planning pro and I never walk into the store without one. Going to the store without a list makes it easier to walk out of there with an assortment of “impulse buys” and makes it more likely for your food to go uneaten. Use the ingredients needed for your recipes, and the staples you have in your pantry and fridge, to help create your shopping list.

“Mis en place”

This is a French term used by chefs around the world meaning “everything in it’s place.” Make meals easier by setting an hour aside over the weekend, or at the beginning of the week, to get everything in it’s place. Chop and dice anything that needs to be diced, cook anything that might take longer than the rest of the ingredients in the dish (like rice or dry beans), and make any sauces or dressings your recipe requires.

Make sure to check out our follow-up post complete with recipes for Stuffed Peppers and a Chicken Fajita Bake. We've also included a complementary shopping list and a step-by-step guide on how to prepare these meals ahead of time. 

Do you have any tips for planning your meals? Post them in the comments section below, let’s learn from each other!