A lot of times, people don’t have the time to prepare healthy meals for each day. Because of this, they end up going for the fastest option come meal time. But most of the time, these fast choices aren’t the healthiest options. Aside from that, eating out rather than cooking meals at home can cost a lot more. Cooking meals at home are very beneficial. That’s why some people choose to plan their meals of time. When meals are already prepared, and on hand, then life becomes a lot easier.
Building a healthy meal plan is easy. However, a lot of people struggle with doing. That’s because they forget the most important thing – organization. Those who are successful at building healthy meal plans make sure they are organized. After all, planning is a big part of creating such a plan.
Beginners at meal planning can start by planning meals for a few days or a week. Then as time goes by, the process becomes a whole lot easier. Planning meals do take time, effort, and careful consideration. Fortunately, there are helpful tips to guide even the most inexperienced meal planners.
What Is a Meal Plan?
Simply put, meal planning is a process of organizing how you think about, prepare for, and cook meals. Meal plans can involve all the meals in one day, from breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The whole process involves writing down the meals, preparing the shopping list, and purchasing the items on the list. Going further, it can also involve preparation, cooking, and store the meals. This is especially useful for people who work and have no time to prepare every meal.
There are no set rules for meal planning. It’s a flexible process. People may plan meals a certain way, and these ways may not work for others. It all depends on the person who is planning and what works for him/her. Building a meal plan can be a fun and educational experience. A lot of people who start this practice end up enjoying it. They also start looking for recipes and getting more creative with their daily, weekly, or monthly meals.
To be able to plan meals well, the person needs to formulate some strategies. Each time the person plans, he/she can keep the strategies which work and replace those which don’t. Here are some helpful tips for building a healthy meal plan:
Reflect and Check First Before Planning
First off, it’s important to set one’s mind to the task of planning meals. There are many things to consider in meal planning. These include family members, work schedules, daily activities, and even plans for traveling.Write the plans on a piece of paper or type it onthe computer or laptop. Think about the right time to plan meals. People usually do this at the end of the week, to plan for the week ahead.
One thing to consider is the type of meals to prepare. Cooking healthy meals, you or your family won’t like defeats the purpose of meal planning. People who do this end up ignoring the meals. When this happens, the money and the food end up getting wasted. When planning meals, it’s also helpful to ask the members of the family. This way, everyone agrees with what’s on the plan. So, there’s no reason not to finish off the food which has been prepared ahead.
After planning the meals, it’s time to plan the items on the grocery list. Before doing this, check your stocks to see what you already have. A lot of times, people buy food and ingredients then forget to use them. Then when a recipe calls for these ingredients, they still end up on the weekly grocery list. Also, before using any foods in cooking, make sure they haven’t gone bad yet. This is very important as spoiled foods can be harmful. Do a quick check of your stocks before writing down your grocery list.
Set a Regular Time for Meal Planning
Meal planning is easy when it’s part of the weekly routine. Setting a regular time for meal planning is key to building a healthy plan. Planning can be done once a week, once a month or every few days. Setting a time means committing to the task. People who successfully make meal plans sit down and think about what they want and what they need for the next few days or weeks.
When planning meals, think about all the meals of the day, from morning until night. These include breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all the snacks in between. It’s important, to be honest when planning meals. In doing this, all mealtimes are covered. When a person is honest in planning his/her meals, the whole process becomes more successful. This is especially true when planning healthy meals. Include the desserts in your plans too. They don’t have to be indulgent or unhealthy. There are many options for healthy desserts and many resources for recipes.
Some people make the task more fun by assigning a theme to some days in a week or month. One day can be reserved for pasta, another for seafood, and another for international cuisine. Granted, this takes more effort, but it’s a lot more fun too. Also, it keeps mealtimes interesting, which is beneficial, especially for kids.
Of course, the meal plan also needs to be flexible. Whether the plan is good for a week or a month, it’s helpful to expect the unexpected. Getting dinner invites or party invites are examples of these unexpected events.When these happen, just move your plan around to remain on track. Straying from the planoccasionally isn’t bad.Just make sure it doesn’t often happen, so the food doesn’t go to waste.
Many people do this task in the morning when the household is most quiet. Then completing the task becomes easier and faster. When the rest of the family is up, feedback or ideas can be used to modify the meal plan, if needed. Once the planis finalized, then it’s time to make the grocery list to prepare for shopping.
Find or Create Recipes
This is another fun part of meal planning, especially for people who love to cook. While building meal plans each week or each month, build a recipe book along with it. In doing this, there will be a lot of options to choose from when planning meals. It can be a go-to recipe file to help with the whole process. Print out the recipes and place them in a folder or save them on the computer.
When planning to cook different recipes, make sure to consume the ones which contain the most perishable ingredients. Each week, choose recipes which have similar ingredients to save more money when shopping. This also helps control purchases and minimize waste.
There are many kinds of recipes and many resources to choose from. People post recipes online every day. Because of the growing health trend, a lot of the recipes online come with nutritional information and health benefits. Choose wisely but be flexible too. Mixing in an indulgent recipe occasionally is okay, just don’t do it too often.
Another important thing to think about when finding and choosing recipes is how healthy they are. After all, one of the most important benefits of planning meals is to have healthier food choices. There are a lot of sources for recipes online, and they usually come with brief descriptions. Choose those who have fresh ingredients and have many health benefits.
When following recipes, make sure to get the portions right. Recipes come with the yield so just add the quantity of the ingredients to make more and subtract to make less. Keep any leftover ingredients in the refrigerator. And for the next planning, make sure to include the leftover ingredients so they don’t go to waste.
Make a Shopping List Based on the Set Budget
Right after finalizing the meal plan, the next step is making the grocery list. Before doing so set a budget and stick to it. People planning for family meals are more conscious of sticking to budgets. It’s a great practice. Set a monthly or weekly budget and make the daily meals part of it. People who do this have a good idea on how much they can spend on food. They can then list down food items accordingly.
When making a shopping list, it’s more effective to do so with a grocery already in mind. Create the list following the layout of the grocery. Then, start shopping from one end of the store all the way to the other. This is a more efficient way to shop as you pass by all the sections without missing out on anything.
After making a meal plan and a list, shopping should be done purposefully. Doing this helps you stick to the budget. It’s even a great idea to keep the set budget in mind while making the meal plan. This makes the planning process easier.
Set a time to do the shopping too. Never shop hungry or when in a rush. People who shop while they’re hungry tend to take items which are not on the list. On the other hand, shopping when there’s not enough time makes people careless. They either miss out on some items or grab items which aren’t on the shopping list.
Prepare or Cook the Food Right After Shopping
When the shopping is done, it’s useful to prepare and cook the food right after. This is especially advisable when planning to store meals for the whole week. It’s also important to prepare and cook meals immediately. Do this to preserve the freshness of the ingredients.
People who plan meals and stock them often set one day for preparing and cooking everything. For working individuals, this is usually done on the weekend. Set one day or half a day out of the weekend to do the shopping. Then cook all the meals before storing them in the refrigerator.
When preparing ingredients, refer to the recipes. The same ingredients might appear in different recipes. Take note of how to prepare them before doing so. Wash, dry, and cut up the ingredients as specified in the recipes.
After preparing the ingredients, start cooking your dishes. Be organized when cooking, so the recipes don’t get mixed up. After cooking a dish, place it in a container for storing. Allow the dish to cool down first before placing it in the
Store Meals the Smart Way
When storing meals is part of your planning, then it’s important to have a great freezer. This is because any stored food is best kept in the freezer to increase the shelf-life. Storing food in the freezer will keep it fresh and delicious for weeks or even a month. Be careful not to overstock the refrigerator though. Also, when restocking, make sure to take out all the old stocks and place them in front. This way, it’s easier to remember to consume the older stocks before starting on, the fresher batches.
Storing food doesn’t only happen in the freezer. It’s also smart to keep the pantry stocked with the basic ingredients. People who do this don’t run out on the essentials. So, when cooking different dishes, the basics are already on hand. These basics include olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs, spices, and other such ingredients.
The Benefits of Building a Healthy Meal Plan
Planning meals are very beneficial. It’s not only economical, but it’s healthy and efficient too. People who plan their meals canmake healthier choices. Here are some of the other benefits of building a healthy meal plan:
- The main benefit of planning meals is getting to choose what goes into the daily diet. It’s a fact that food matters. Food doesn’t only sustain the body, but it provides the essential nutrients too. So, planning meals allows one to make healthy food choices.
- Planning meals also save a lot of money. Dining out is more expensive than preparing and cooking meals from home. Planning can also involve looking for discounts and sales on food and cooking ingredients in supermarkets.
- Building a healthy meal plan also allows for flexibility and variety. People who plan their meals choose their foods. So, when a person wants pasta, he/she includes it in the plan. If a person wants to eat salads the whole week, just add it into the meal plan. And when there are any changes, it’s easy to move things around.
These are just some of the benefits. There are a lot more, which is why more and more people are choosing to plan their meals. It’s a healthytrend, and it looks like this trend is here to stay.