The benefits of healthy eating seem endless, but finding time to put together fresh meals can make it a challenge to stay on track. Instead of giving up your goals to follow a dedicated diet type or improve your health, consider meal prepping. This allows you to plan dishes in advance to save yourself time and energy during the week. With the power of this process, you can reach your dietary objectives with ease.
Here are six tips for meal planning this week.
Start your meal planning by taking inventory of what you have at home. Check your fridge, freezer and pantry, and make a list of ingredients and subsequent quantities. You can use this as a starting point to determine what recipes you can create and what items you would still need to buy. It also helps to list expiration dates to ensure you know what products will begin to spoil first.
You can update the inventory after shopping so it’s always accurate. This will stop you from overbuying at the grocery store. Keep the spreadsheet somewhere easily accessible, like your phone or planner, so you can access it while you’re out of the house.
Look up weekly food discounts online or in your local paper. Compare the sales items to what ingredients you have at home and decide on recipes for the week. Use a planner to organize your ideas.
Your planner will allow you to budget and prioritize time, which can help break down the meals into smaller, more manageable tasks. List what dishes you’ll make for each day of the week. Writing out a plan helps hold you accountable and lets you check your progress throughout the month. If you are using meal planning to help you stay on budget and save money, you can also track your weekly expenses.
Decide whether you would like to go to the store or order your groceries online. By buying ingredients in advance, you will reduce the temptation to shop for unnecessary products. If you decide to shop in-person, then bring your list and use it as a guide. To save yourself time and energy, skip aisles that aren’t relevant to your meals for the week.
Research shows that hunger makes you buy more, so you should probably eat before leaving the house. Make sure you purchase the products with enough time to meal prep before the week begins. After shopping, bring your ingredients home and start getting organized.
It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for — prep time! Take a few moments to organize your thoughts and decide how you can multitask to cut down on time. For example, you can cut vegetables while your rice or other meals are cooking.
Prepare any elements of your dishes in advance, so on a dedicated day, you can toss things together to make the meal. If possible, you can assemble everything in one day and store the food in the fridge or freezer. This is especially nice if you have a long weekend and want to complete several weeks of meal prep at once. Research how long each product will stay fresh, so your hard work doesn’t go to waste.
Shortcuts can be major time-saving hacks when it comes to meal planning. Consider buying precut or precooked ingredients when possible to save yourself a few minutes during prep. You can also choose components from the salad bar if you only need a small amount for a recipe. After all, why buy an entire bag of sunflower seeds if you only need a few?
Some foods don’t stay well in the fridge or freezer, so it’s best to make them the same day. In these situations, choose recipes you can make in a slow cooker or pressure cooker so you can multitask while your meal is cooking.
Meal planning is fun, and when it comes time to begin prepping, it’s natural to feel energized by the experience. Concentrate on keeping things simple — you can skip the four-course meals as long as you’re receiving enough nutrients. Aim to follow nutrition guidelines to create balanced and healthy meals.
Plan to eat leftovers on some days or reuse individual side dishes to change up dinners without starting from scratch. Choose recipes you love so you enjoy each meal — even if you ate the same food the night before. To keep from getting bored, switch up your core ingredients each week so mealtime stays fresh and fun.
These six tips can help you become a meal-planning pro in no time. Following a dedicated diet will feel like a breeze, and you can enjoy healthy, stress-free eating week after week. The only question you’ll have to ask is what to plan next.