Sometimes we hear from customers that even with a tool like Plan to Eat, the process of planning meals and actually getting them on the table can feel daunting. If you are new to meal planning and aren’t sure where to start, this post is for you!
Sandy Hall is an Integrative Wellness & Life Coach who specializes in lovingly and compassionately supporting people to build deep family connections, healthy habits and enjoyment of everyday life. She’s been meal planning for over 25 years and loves the ease and balance it brings to her week. With two active kids and a husband of 21 years, she understands the importance of finding realistic solutions that work for busy everyday life and enjoys helping people become solution finders!
We asked Sandy to put together a few tips about how to get started with meal planning.
Here is what she had to say:
I want to start by saying, I love Plan to Eat. It’s such a great tool and, since you’re here, I’d bet that you think so too. But even with this awesome tool, it can be hard to get started.
You may feel overwhelmed by what recipes to choose, or perhaps you have a ton of your own that you want to import and haven’t gotten around to, or maybe you really aren’t sure on how to pick meals that work for your week and that your family will enjoy eating.
That’s why today I’m talking about meal planning made easy.
I want to break this process down into easy steps to help you plan your meals like a pro – quickly, efficiently, and in a way that works for your week!
Step 1: Decide what type of meal plan you want to use.
There are several ways to go about this, with the absolute easiest being the same plan every week (i.e. Monday – spaghetti, Tuesday – Tacos, etc). However, this can get kind of boring so you may just want to choose one or two nights a week for this (Friday night is Family Pizza Night at our house).
If you want this type of weekly structure with more variety you can plan your menu by “theme nights” (i.e. meatless Monday, Mexican night, etc).
Another option is to plan what type of meals to make based on what is on sale at the grocery store, while at other times you may choose to plan a variety of meals completely based on step 2.
Step 2: Look at what you have on the calendar for the week.
Do you have kids practice or sports one night, or maybe an exercise class or late meeting for you? These busy nights beg for meals using the crock pot or something from the freezer so the food is ready when you are. Add steamed vegetables (frozen or pre-prepped) and you are ready to go. In fact, Plan to Eats’ monthly challenges can be a great resource for these types of recipes!
Another option to make meals quick & easy is to have meals where you make extra of one component and use that for another meal. For example, you could have grilled chicken on Monday and make double, then use the extra in a completely different recipe (think casseroles, fried rice, etc) or to top a salad on Thursday.
Step 3: Make your grocery list based on your menu.
This is my #1 absolute favorite feature in Plan to Eat (I think the second is the import recipes from web option). A quick look through the shopping list lets you add or remove anything that you notice is needed. I also keep a sticky note on my fridge as a convenient way to keep track of things through the week to add to my list.
If you are new to Plan to Eat, this video will show you how the shopping list works:
Step 4: Set your time to shop or order your food from an online grocery delivery service.
Go ahead and mark it on your calendar so you know that you’ll have everything in time for your planned meals. This is also helpful to choose who is going to do the shopping, or if you know that you’ll have multiple stores to shop at.
Extra Tip: Stock your pantry
My final tip is that it’s always a great idea to stock your pantry and freezer with a couple of meals that you can pull out when plans change or you’re short on time, because let’s face it – even the best plans get hijacked every once in a while. A jar of spaghetti sauce can easily provide a quick upgrade from plain ol’ chicken tenders to chicken parmesan using ready-made staples – your family won’t even know that you didn’t plan this special meal just for them.
I know that sometimes it feels overwhelming to make a meal plan, and for those times I recommend to just K.I.S.S. (keep it simple sweetie). Start by picking a few menu items that you know you can make easily and just get ingredients for those. Even if you only plan a few meals for the week you’re still taking steps to make your life easier and calm the chaos.
I hope these steps have helped make meal planning manageable for you. If you want even more help with learning to meal plan I’d love to share my upcoming 3-week group coaching program:
Rock Your Kitchen! How to plan quick, delicious and healthy meals for you and your family.
If you have any questions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.