Here are my five tips for easy meal planning for the week. Make healthy and tasty meals all week long without having to cook every night.
Why Should You Meal Plan?
Meal Planning can seem daunting and exhausting, but taking the time to do it can make hectic life easier. Actually, prepping meals ahead of time can also save you money, time and your sanity. Also, meal planning can help you make healthier food choices too. I prepare meals for my family almost daily, sometimes all three—breakfast, lunch and dinner—so here are my tips for meal planning without having to cook every night.
Five Tips for Easy Meal Planning for the Week
1. Go with the tried and true
Meal Planning goes wrong really fast when you try to incorporate all new recipes. Instead, make a point of cooking meals you know how to make and everyone likes. If you really want add a new recipe, make it just one. Also, planning meals does not mean you have to cook a three course dinner every night. It means you figured out what’s everyone eating for the week, like the badass you are.
2. Shop once for the week
Decide what you will cook this week before food shopping. Take stock of items you still have in your fridge and pantry, then make a list of everything you need. Choose meals that you already know everyone likes, and you know how to make. I also like recipes that do not require a ton of ingredients or time in the kitchen.
Don’t be too ambitious. If you really want to add one new recipe to the menu this week, but otherwise keep it easy. The goal of meal planning is to make life easier and eliminate the “what’s for dinner” anxiety.
Recipes I make the most often:
3. Choose meals that have leftovers or cook in bulk
Make meals that have leftovers, or cook items that you can use later in the week. A crockpot is a great solution for this. If you make crock pot chicken, you can use that chicken for salads or to make quesadillas for dinner and/or lunch a few days later.
When we don’t use a crock pot, we typically grill chicken, sausage and meat on Sunday. We purposely grill too much so that we can use the cooked protein in our lunch and dinners for the rest of the week. For example, I can “recycle” the sausage the next night by adding it to one of our favorite one-skillet dinners.
Items I like to bulk make for the week:
- Quinoa/Rice/Barley—use as a side with protein and veggies or add to salads.
- Soups—I like to make a big pot, save half in the freezer for a few weeks down the line. This way we can eat soup a couple times in one week and not feel overwhelmed that we have to finish the entire pot. A soup makes for a great and quick lunch, so I love having it on hand.
- Protein—grilled chicken is a great protein to make a head and utilize for variety of meals. Also, I love making a mini meatloaves and serve them up for lunch or dinner..
4. Buy Pre-made Basics
I buy premade salads, pre-cut vegetables and cooked sides. Some of my favorites are the precut soup trio of celery, carrots and onion I use all the time to make chicken soup. Not having to cut up the vegetables makes it super easy to toss ingredients in the pot.
I also like the ready to eat rice from Trader Joes. Many of our dinners are a combo of salads, leftover proteins and whatever else I can toss into a bowl.
I also like to have tons of condiments on hand. A premade salad can be transformed into a whole new dish with a different dressing.
5. Know Your Schedule
Plan ahead for meals out.Typically on Tuesdays we order take out and we usually get a pizza or sushi on Fridays. So when I’m meal planning keep those two days free.
Additional Tips For Making Meal Times Less Stressful:
Cut and wash fresh vegetables and fruit to be able to grab out of the fridge.
Keep healthy snacks accessible so that kids can help themselves.
Make hard boiled eggs and buy ingredients for a smoothies, so that when someone is hungry you can grab something on the healthier side. Overnight oats are also a great way to have breakfast available and eliminate cooking.