It’s the question we all secretly dread:
What’s for dinner?!
Whether you cook for one person or an entire army of people- there’s a lot that goes into preparing a full menu worth of healthy meals.
Let’s face it:
When you take into consideration all the time + energy that goes into searching for recipes, shopping for groceries and then preparing the actual dish- a simple meal can easily become tedious and time-consuming.
It’s no wonder why we’re so quick to opt for take-out, especially when our schedules get the best of us and we’re in a pinch.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the meal planning process or if you just feel like you’re in a cooking rut, keep reading, my friend!
In this blog post, I’m breaking down everything you need to know to make healthy meal planning easier (and less stressful!).
Plus, I’ll show you my favorite meal-planning tool that will simplify this process EVEN MORE– saving you time, heartache and even a little bit of money.
This post may contain affiliate links, for more information, see my disclosures here.
At first glance, meal planning can feel intimidating.
But with a little practice, you can set up your own meal planning system that makes healthy eating feel effortless.
So let’s get started:
Step 1: Gather a List of Core Recipes
Meal planning feels intimidating for so many women because we try and reinvent the wheel too often.
The truth is:
You don’t have to whip up a new recipe every day of the week to keep your meal plan exciting.
Experimenting with one or two new recipes a month while rotating through your “tried-and-true” favorites is enough variety to keep meal time exciting (while also helping you keep your sanity!).
So the first step of the meal planning process is to choose 10 recipes that you and your family love.
Print them out. Write them on notecards. Memorize them…
Do whatever you have to do to make them easily accessible when you write out your weekly meal plan.
Now if you’re worried about being ‘locked-in’ to the same 10 recipes all the time, understand that you can always update this list.
The point of this first step is minimize the number of decisions you have to make each week when you’re planning out your meals so that you don’t feel overwhelmed!
Options are great! But trying to choose from too many options will leave you feeling defeated and less likely to follow through with your new meal planning system.
Step 2: Create a Weekly Template
A week may not feel like a whole lot of time- but when you’re staring at a blank calendar trying to fit all your recipes into your busy schedule, that week can feel as if it goes on forever.
Assigning a “theme” to each day of the week is a simple way to not only make meal planning easier, but it’s a great way to avoid that feeling of eating the same foods over and over again.
Understand that there’s no rules to follow when it comes to crafting your own weekly template.
You could design your theme days based on a specific type of dish. For example:
- Pasta Mondays
- Taco Tuesdays
- Soup + Salad Wednesdays
- Stir-Fry Thursdays
- Pizza Fridays
- Slow-Cooker Saturdays
Or you could split your days based on proteins. For instance:
- Meatless Mondays
- Chicken Tuesdays
- Seafood Wednesdays
Don’t forget that you can always add a “left-over” night into the rotation. This will help you keep food waste to a minimum. Plus, it gives you a break from cooking!
My encouragement is that you take into consideration your weekly schedule and plan accordingly.
On nights where you often get home from work late, or you have to run out the door for some sort of kid activity- try and plan for ‘quick-meals’.
Realize that theme nights aren’t meant to complicate your meal plan, they are simply a strategy to help give you structure to your week.
Personally, what I love about my weekly meal planning template is that it allows me to always know what’s ‘coming next’. It allows me to think about the week ahead without feeling overwhelmed.
Step 3: Plan Your Meals & Make Corresponding Grocery List
With your core list of recipes and meal template complete, now is the time to actually plan out your menu for the week!
Decide on which recipes will be used for each day + generate a grocery list that includes all your necessary ingredients.
Don’t forget to cross check your list with what’s currently in your fridge + pantry so that you don’t end up buying more than what’s necessary for the week ahead.
I find that grocery shopping just once a week not only saves me money (less chance for those impulse buys to make it into my cart) but it also saves me time.
PRO TIP: Keep your completed meal plans and grocery lists to re-use them in the future! Again this is a huge time-saver for weeks when you’re stressed for time and just need a simple solution for meal planning.
Step 4: Enjoy!
Now all that’s left to do is follow the meal plan you’ve created! You can head into the week knowing that you all the hard work is already done.
You can feel relieved knowing all that’s left to do is to actually enjoy the healthy meals you’ve planned.
How to Simplify the Meal Planning Process Even More:
Now that we’ve broken the steps that go into a successful meal plan, I want to share with you my favorite tool for simplifying this process even further.
The tool itself is called Plan to Eat.
And what Plan to Eat is is an online meal planning app you can use to store and sort your recipes, create (and save) menus, visualize your meal planning in calendar form, create a shopping list, and easily share your recipes with others.
I can’t stress enough how much this simple program has transformed the way I plan my meals!
But before I get too far in sharing all the great features this app has to offer, let me put your mind at ease + answer the one question you’re likely wondering about right now:
What’s it gonna cost you?
While the app does require a subscription to use, the good news is that it’s SUPER AFFORDABLE!
You can expect to pay between $3 and $5 a month (depending on whether you pay monthly or annually).
What’s even better is that you can try the program out for FREE for 30 DAYS (no strings attached).
Yep, sign-up for Plan to Eat (no credit card required) and give it a try for a full 30 days to see if this meal planning tool will work for you!
Here’s a run-down of my favorite features! Trust me, you’ll be amazed at all this meal planning program can do. (Click the video to watch).
Store and Sort Your Recipes:
Plan to Eat uses YOUR stored recipes for meal planning.
Think of all those recipe pins you have stored on your Pinterest boards. With Plan to Eat, you finally have a place to go with all of them!
You see, instead of collecting mounds of pins and a Pinterest board that you never use, having everything easily organized within Plan to Eat ensures that you actually follow through and cook the recipes that you take the time to save.
You can add as many recipes as you’d like and you can sort them in a number of ways- by course, cuisine, main ingredient, etc– it really just depends upon your personal preference.
Drag and Drop Meal Planning:
Once you have your recipes saved in Plan to Eat, this is where things get fun!
Now it’s time to plan out your weekly or even monthly calendar.
Now I am a visual person and that’s why I LOVE how this digital meal planner is set up.
Simply drag and drop where you want your meals to go and Voila!- you’re good to go!
With this easy-to-use meal planning calendar, all you do is search for which recipes you want to use and then drag them over to your calendar.
Once on the calendar, you can adjust the number of servings so that you’re cooking the right number of portions for you.
You can even view nutritional information, which is the ultimate time-saver if you’re someone watching what she eats.
Automatic Shopping List:
Perhaps the biggest timesaver of them all is the fact that the Plan to Eat automatically generates a shopping list based on the meal plan that you’ve created.
When you are ready to go to the grocery store, all you have to do is hit the “Shop” button and specify the dates of the meal plan for which you want to shop.
Maybe you want to shop for an entire week, or maybe you want to shop for just a single day, or maybe you’re really ambitious and you want to shop for the entire month- the program will combine all the ingredients from all of your planned meals + create your shopping list!
Now, I have the Plan to Eat app also downloaded on my phone, so whenever I’m in the grocery store, I simply pull out my phone and I start shopping.
The shopping list is easily organized by departments. I simply click each ingredient as I throw it in my cart and Plan to Eat will delete it off my shopping list for me.
For weeks where I’m really not motivated to go to the grocery store, I actually take the shopping list that Plan to Eat gives me and I’ll order my entire grocery list through a grocery delivery service like Shipt.
It’s hard to believe, but you can have your entire week of meals planned, the groceries bought and delivered while you’re drinking your morning coffee!
Should You Sign-Up for Plan to Eat?
Now I will say that this blog post is not a comprehensive list of all the cool features that Plan to Eat has to offer.
For the sake of keeping this post relatively short, I just wanted to highlight some of my absolute favorites.
Simply put, I can’t recommend this program enough.
Whether you are cooking for one or for one hundred and one, Plan to Eat is an easy way to make sure that you’re planning your meals efficiently and effectively.
My encouragement for you is to give it a try for 30 days and just see how much it helps simplify your weekly meal planning.
You will never think about dinner the same way again- that I can promise you, my friend!
Here to support YOU!
XO, Britney (ms.fit.farmer)
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