Whether you are single, married or married with children, we all have to eat and the question, "what's for dinner", has resulted in more arguments and debates than the topic of gun control. While today's society brings on enough stress, food should not. One way to alleviate this food stress and get healthier in the process is meal planning. Meal planning is simple, affordable and time saving, while only taking a small amount of time out of your week to do
The first thing you need to do is make a list of your must have favorite meals. I store mine on my IPad, you can also keep it on your computer or go old school and write it down in a notebook. You want your list to total 31 meals, that gives you a month of meals if you are really feeling non creative. 31 favorite meals isn't an easy feat I know, and this will be the most time consuming part of preparing for meal planning.
After this step it's easy. Now take 10 deep breaths and only begin by writing down your must have meals/favorites. Done? Now count up how many you do have and really take a look at that list. Seeing a lot of beef? Well that's a challenge to throw in some chicken, fish, tofu or vegetable nights.
With the rest of your list you are aiming for a protein balance and a chance to cut out some unhealthy meats and add leaner proteins into your diet. Now that you have your proteins filling out rest of your list it's time to get some meal concepts going.
Not all of us are foodies that have tons of cookbooks around, cooking websites saved and boxes filled with recipes, therefore meal concepts can be over whelming. But have no fear, the internet is here! I'm partial to Grouprecipes and Pinterest.
Grouprecipes is a cooking only social network that can become very addicting. You type in tags of what recipes you are looking for, like "fish" or "savory" and soon you will be seeing recipes submitted by the websites users. Pretty soon you'll be addicted, joyfully having fun in the wonderful social network.
Pinterest is great for getting ideas. Type what you are looking for in the search engine, like "pork" and watch all the pretty pictures of pork dishes appear on your screen. Click on the picture you like and it takes you to the website the pinner pinned it from.
There's also allrecipes, epicurious and if you are really feeling adventurous, foodnetwork. Ok, now go fill in the rest of those 31 meal concepts, don't worry if it's over 31 and make sure to keep the recipes.
Done? FANTASTIC! Pour yourself some wine honey cause now the hard part is OVER! Congratulations, you now have a meal list to pull from when you plan your meals and you've stumbled over some pretty yummy recipes to add to your cooking repertoire.
This phase requires you to make a sheet, either on the computer or in a notebook. It will need to be 3 columns wide and 8 rows high. Title column one: DAY, column two: MEAL and Column three: GROCERY LIST. I used my personal one for the photo of this article. Go ahead, take a look and feel free to use it.
Ah, you didn't know this was going to be an organization time saver also, did you? Yes, organization, one more way to alleviate stress, but more on organization and stress relief another time.
The fist column, in each row, insert the days of the week, If you're using a computer save this as a template or however you wish. For those who prefer the notebook method, keep a copy of this to refer to when you plan your meals each week. It might seem like a no brainer, but having this staring you in the face fights off the, "how do you make that table again?" question. This makes it right at your finger tips and you don't have to think about it. We've got enough stressful stuff to think about every day, this is something to help you de-stress, not stress you out.
As you've already guessed, this will be the foundation of your meal planner. Our template is done! Great, your next assignment is to pick a day of the week that works for you and deem that your meal planning day. Ready to begin? GOOD!
Start by plugging your meal concepts into the days of the week. Don't be scared, just pick ones that sound good to you. Let's say you threw, Yummy looking fish dish, into Friday. What do you want to have with that dish? Hum, we are trying to eat healthier and you did stumble across that interesting looking Kale recipe. So, there, add that kale dish to Fridays fish.
Apply the same theory to all the other days, plug in a concept meal and add a healthy option. After that, add what you need to pick up from the store for all these meals to the grocery list columns and rows. Boom, now your grocery list is done, yes another way to fight stress by being organized. Plus, the grocery list allows you to hit the store only once this week, instead of having to make multiple trips throughout the week- TIME SAVER!
By meal planning we've take the mental stress out of, "what's for dinner" and we have become more conscious of the foods we eat. Instead of rushing around the kitchen, in a mental state of chaos and grabbing whatever, we have now taken control of our nutrition. We've also become more organized and save time by not having to make multiple trips to the store.
An added bonus- going into the grocery store with a list saves you money because don't get as distracted by all the other stuff. Just grab your list, hit the store and stick to mission mode. I hope you found this helpful. If you have any questions or need more information on meal planning, I'm only an email away and happy to help.