Meal Planning 101

If you are interested in learning how to meal plan like a pro, then you are on a path to not only saving money on groceries, but also to serving your family healthy and nutritious meals.

Meal planning does not need to be complicated or time-consuming. If done right, it can even be fun. One of the best ways to bond with your family is around the dinner table, so why not prepare meals that everyone in the house will enjoy?

When you create healthy meal plans, you are making sure that everyone in your family is eating healthy. Also, if you ask everyone to list their favorite meals, you are making sure that you will prepare meals that your family loves. If you are ready to start planning meals for your family, keep reading the simple tips listed below.

Check Your Schedule

The first step to becoming a weekly meal planner is to check your schedule for the week. For days that you have more free time, you should plan meals that take longer to prepare and cook. If there are days during the week that you are on a time crunch, you should cook quick meals. You can also choose to cook the day before and plan to have left overs for the next day.

Plan Your Meals Each Week

Now that you have checked your schedule, you are ready to pick which meals you and your family will eat for the week.

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First, ask your family the meals that they would like to eat, then create an outline of recipes that you can use as a guide. You can also use a worksheet to plan your meals. By doing so, you are making sure that you are covering meals for every day of the week, and that you are preparing enough fruits and vegetables for your family to enjoy.

Plan Your Side Dishes, Snacks and Beverages

When meal planning, be sure to include snacks and beverages that will accompany your meals. Also, make sure that you add any side dishes or desserts to your meal planning. Once you plan your menu, you are ready to create a grocery list for every ingredient that you will need to buy.

Shop Your Pantry

Before you run to the store to buy the ingredients for your healthy meal plan, you will want to take inventory of the ingredients that you own. When you shop your pantry, you are not only taking notice of the items that you do not have. You are also bringing attention to the foods that you have, which can be used as part of your meal planning. An unopened bag of rice pairs nicely with many kinds of meats, as do canned vegetables or beans. However, if you plan to use any food items that you find in the back of the pantry, be sure to check the expiration date to make sure it is still edible.

Start a Grocery List

Now that you know how to meal plan for the week, you are ready to start a grocery list. First, check off any ingredients that you already have in your kitchen. Then, list the remaining ingredients that you need to purchase and group them into different sections or food groups. You can do so by grouping together items that are usually close to each other in your grocery store. When you group like items together, you prevent yourself from doing multiple laps around the grocery store.

Start an Ongoing Grocery List

Creating a grocery list does not need to be a one-time task. If you create a family grocery list, you can add foods as you go, so that you are never without essential ingredients for your healthy eating plan. To get started, you can create an ongoing grocery list that you keep in the kitchen. You can even download a free mobile app, such as Trello, which allows you to sync a grocery list with other members of your household. That way, you are not the only person who can add things to the list.

Look for Promotions and Sales

One of the easiest ways to create healthy meal plans on a budget is to look for promotions and sales at your local grocery store. If you frequently shop at the same grocery store, check to see if they have a loyalty program. It is typical for stores to offer free loyalty programs to their customers, which offers discounts and specials that are not available to non-members.

Next, it would help if you look for coupons. Most grocery stores offer promotion pamphlets that show the weeks discounts and promotional items. Ask your grocery store for a copy next time you go grocery shopping or ask to be added to their mailing list. By doing so, you can receive promotional information right to your home.

Enjoy Your Leftovers

Now that you created a healthy meal plan for the week, you may want to consider making enough food to eat multiple times throughout the week. Not only does eating leftovers save you time, but it also saves you money.

However, having leftovers does not mean you need to eat the same meal every night. If you have chicken breast one night, you can throw a remaining breast in a salad or wrap for the next night to make it different. Creating food variations from meals you already have cooked allows you and your family to enjoy the same meal in different ways.

Reuse Your Weekly Meal Plans

When the week is up, do not throw away the meal planner that you so thoroughly created. Instead, save it in a safe place, such as a three-ring binder, to reuse later. The more meal plans you create, the less time you will spend putting together weekly meals. You will also find that you have more time to cook delicious and healthy meals for your family.

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