I often get asked, “What is the single most important thing you can do to improve your diet?” My simple response sometimes surprises. Embrace cooking at home and family meal time. In our crazy world, having a weekly meal plan can make this possible, and save a lot of time and hassle during our weekly swamp of commitments. It is the key to making our nutrition a priority and eating mindfully. And while that sounds great, it is sometimes hard to know where to start, or how to get it to become routine.
Summer is really whipping by. I blinked and school supplies are now back in the stores. I’ve said this before, but the start of school really seems like New Years Day to me. It is a great time to start some new habits that you can maintain with a more hectic schedule, and when I think about it, meal planning solves a lot. Everyone KNOWS it can be helpful, but everyone knows this isn’t a perfect world where time is plentiful. I have been known to keep a day or so of meal ideas crammed inside my jumbled brain, or just resort to take out because too much other brain stuff got in the way. Or maybe if I’m doing good, I scribble some meals on a Post-It. And that’s OK, because it gets dinner on the table…usually.
This is why I have created a nifty weekly meal plan template you can download at the end of this post, that stream lines what you want to eat and the corresponding grocery list so you can tackle your week head on. I have also reached out to some of the best of the best dietitians out there to share their meal planning hacks that make things oh so much simpler and keeps the whole family on a healthier track. Maybe you will find something that clicks for you!
Meal Planning Hacks to Stay on Track and Keep Your Sanity by Registered Dietitians:
“We sit down before we go food shopping and plan meals with similar food items to be used throughout the week such as black beans with be used as a burger one day and in a salad or quesadilla another day.” –Colene Stoernell MS, RDN, LD https://colenerd.weebly.com/
“It’s really important to consider your schedule as you meal plan. If you have a busy week ahead, plan accordingly. You want meal prep to make sense with your other time constraints. For example, on an evening when you know you will be home later, throw something in the crockpot before you leave for the day so you come home to a dinner that is already prepared.” — Sarah Marjoram, MS, RDN, LD https://nourish.marjoram.co
“Keep your pantry and freezer stocked with staples so if you begin to run out of fresh ingredients towards the end of the week you can easily prepare a meal with what you have on hand. I like to keep frozen veggies, meat, salmon, and shrimp in the freezer and chickpeas, beans, spices, and whole grains in the pantry.” — Jenna Gorham, RD, LN of Jenna Gorham Nutrition http://www.jennagorhamrd.com/
“Start with planning only dinners. This keeps it simple, especially if you’re just beginning to meal plan. Plus research shows eating together as a family, as many evenings as schedules allow, is beneficial in many ways beyond health.” — Diane Norwood, MS, RD, CDE https://thewanderingrd.com/2017/07/05/plan-your-own-meals-please-heres-why-and-how/
“When I’m planning meals for the week, I always make sure to look in my refrigerator and freezer to see what needs to be used up, then plan around that so that food doesn’t go to waste and I’m not buying multiples of what I already have. I also like to plan for some flexibility, in case something comes up or we want to go out one night.” — Kaleigh McMordie, MCN, RDN of Lively Table
“Keep it simple! If you are really excited to try something new, add only one new menu item a week. Think outside the traditional dinner items. A veggie omelet with toast or cheese, crackers, fruit and veggie sticks works. Making it easy keeps it sustainable and not one more thing you have to do on your list!” — Melissa Conniff, RD www.calgaryfamilynutrition.com
As promised, here is your nifty free weekly meal plan template for you to download. Print a bunch and slap them on a magnetic clipboard on your fridge. You can take a few minutes plan your meals at the beginning of the week, then organize your grocery list. If you’re having trouble, start with planning just dinners. And if you’re struggling for inspiration, pick a meat/protein you feel like having and google recipes. I also have lots of recipes in this blog to check out too. You will be king/queen of the world feeding your family right and increasing that family bonding time. Maybe you’re born with it, maybe it’s super powers, maybe it’s….meal planning!!
UPDATE: I now have a program that takes care of all the leg-work of meal planning! Take a peek here.
Until next time!