I would argue that meal planning is one of the most important healthy habits to create if you want to stay on track with your health. Planning ahead and staying focused are HUGE when it comes to making sure you’re eating the right foods for a long healthy life.

We’ve all been there, that long day at work followed by coming home to an empty fridge and opting for Kraft Dinner only to feel horrible about yourself afterwards. Meal planning is a foolproof method to ensure you’re always prepared for those lazy days and that your fridge always has the right ingredients at hand.

Sure, it’s going to take a bit of commitment and planning on your part. Ask yourself, how important is your health? I’m sure it’s pretty important (or else you wouldn’t be here right now). When done right, meal planning takes 1-2 hours each week and sets you up for success day in and day out. Who doesn’t have that time for their health? Even if you don’t feel like you have the time, make it. If it’s important to you, then schedule in the time to make it happen. You can do it!

preparing food

When done right, meal planning not only saves you time but also money. No last minute shopping every two days, no stress of thinking about what to make after a long day at work, no impulse buys at the grocery store, and less food waste (high five for this one!).

Whether you’re new to the meal planning process or are a seasoned planner, it always helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve. To get you started click here and print out the weekly sheet and shopping list template so you’re ready to sit down and get planning.

Here are my top 10 tips for becoming a meal planning master:

1- Look ahead at your schedule for the week and decide which meals you will be eating at home and need to plan for. Usually we aren’t home every day of the week and should plan these days in so we don’t end up with leftover food in our fridge.

2- Before hitting the grocery store with your list, take stock of what you already have in your fridge/pantry. You may be surprised to find a lot of needed ingredients already on hand. Take those off your shopping list.

3- Schedule in 30 min once a week to sit down and put a plan in place. This does not have to be done on a Sunday! I’ve noticed time and time again that doing meal planning at the end of a weekend often gets forgotten or creates the feeling of too much work happening on a day of rest. Try meal planning on a Monday or Wednesday followed by a grocery shop the next day after work. Book it in and don’t ignore this important appointment with yourself!

4- Decide on at least one new meal to make each week and print out the recipe. There are endless new recipes and ideas floating around on the internet so you shouldn’t have any problems here. Here are a few of my favourite sites:

Oh She Glows
Minimalist Baker
Cookie & Kate
Green Kitchen Stories
Mind Body Green

5- Keep in mind cooking time on certain days while building your plan. If you only have 30 minutes to cook on Wednesday this week then make sure the meal you plan that day is a quick one. If you want to make a more detailed meal on Saturday when you have the time, then choose that meal accordingly. There is nothing worse than getting home after work and realizing you picked a 1-hour meal that night and you don’t have the time for it.Kraft Dinner to the rescue!

6- Leftovers are your best friend. Plan for leftovers. Having leftovers for lunch or for a different dinner that week can save a huge amount of time and stress. Plan to cook double batches of a recipe and either keep it for later that week or freeze it for a future “emergency day”. My freezer is always full of quick meals in case I need them.

7- Get the whole family involved in prep. Get the kids searching for items at the grocery store, ask them to help put away groceries, and even cut up the ingredients while you cook. Chopping and preparing vegetables and foods one day a week can be helpful. Then you can come home and simply throw everything into your meal and save time on chopping.

8- Leave 1 or two nights free for unplanned leftovers or a surprise dinner out. Stay flexible and if you miss a planned meal then simply have it another day that week. It’s your plan, you can do whatever you want.

9- Designate who is cooking which meals. Splitting the tasks with a spouse can be great. Make sure everyone’s clear on which days they are “in charge” so there is no miscommunication (that never ends well!). Taking turns or even cooking together as a family can make the process more fun and more of a social time than just “getting it done”.

10- Have a master list of recipes. This one is very important. Having one “go to” spot for all of your recipes makes it easy to choose and plan for the week. Depending on personal preference there are a lot of ideas for organizing your recipes:

  • A photo album with recipe cards
  • A binder with clear sleeves and printed recipe pages
  • A board on Pinterest
  • A meal planning App

I highly recommend taking a look at some of the amazing meal planning Apps that exist these days. Depending on what you are looking for, each one can help you organize your own recipes, find new recipes, plan your weekly meals, and even generate your shopping list so it’s handy at the store. Pretty amazing! Here are a few that I like the best.

  1. Big Oven – Free, Smartphone App, recipe catalogue, easy functionality
  2. Plan to Eat– $4.95/month, Smartphone App, easy to use, free 30 day trial
  3. Pepperplate– Free, Smartphone App, no website, simple, no categories

Now that you’re armed with some amazing tips- get to it!

If you have any other tips or ideas to share please comment below!

Love & Planning for health,