Meal Planning Part 2 takes us through the more creative aspects of meal planning.
We have already discussed the importance of organizing your kitchen, your recipes and your food, be it the pantry, the refrigerator or your cabinets. Now your next decision is to decide how you want to track your meals. There are a few different ways to do this. If you are computer savvy, you could create a folder with a calendar, a weekly meal list and your shopping list. Better yet, do it on your phone for on the go use!
I am old school and use a combination of tools. I keep track of all my dinners on a monthly calendar on my refrigerator. In my old age, it’s hard to remember what I had for dinner last night, much less 3 weeks ago lol! This way I can make sure to have more of a variety in dinners. I use a weekly menu planner for organizing upcoming meals including breakfasts and lunches.
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Meal Planning Part 2
As you think about meals, keep in mind your daily schedule for the upcoming week. How late do you work? Do you have after hour meetings? Do your kids have extra-curricular activities? This will help you understand the amount of time you can dedicate to actually preparing a meal on any given day.
Meal Planning Around The Weather
Consider the the season you are in when meal planning. For maximum nutritional benefits, accessibility and affordability, choose produce that is in season and preferably local to your area. It’s great if you can support your local farmers and the markets are so much fun to attend! Soups, chili’s, stews and casseroles lend themselves better to colder months, while salads, grilled meats, fish and garden picked vegetables are more pleasing in warmer weather.
Be sure to check your daily forecast for the week too. Do you want to grill outside in the rain or snow? (yes, we do grill year round here, but not in a snow storm or heavy rains)
Have you thought about trying a more plant based meal plan, but you are not ready to give up a good steak or luscious lobster tail? Try a meatless Monday and have my Mushroom Lasagne Roll-Ups or a sandwich night with my Grown Up Grilled Cheese!
meal planning for breakfast and lunch
Planning for your breakfasts and lunches will keep you on track for healthier eating. Good options for breakfast are overnight oats lending for an on the go food or a healthy smoothie. Try my Irish Oatmeal for a healthy filling breakfast! Lunches can be quick if you have leftovers. Pack it up the night before in small containers. Make kid lunches fun. Put fruit on wooden skewers for kebobs, buy tri-colored carrots, cut cheese into little cubes or use cookie cutters and cut cheese slices into holiday shapes, and try spreading hummus and veggies on flour tortillas, rolling them up and slicing to make little pinwheels. Kid Friendly Hot Dog Hand Pies are another fun option!
One last consideration….when making 1, why not make 2! Especially during the winter months, when you are making casseroles and soups, double the batch, then freeze the second. Casseroles can be portioned out individually or left whole in a disposable baking tin. Soups can be frozen in plastic soup containers. This is great for those times when you end up with unexpected company or just don’t have it in you to cook.
The Meal Planning Grocery List
A helpful tip is to keep a running list handy so when you run out of an ingredient you will know to replace it. Keep your pantry stocked with all the basics and your weekly list won’t be too out of control.
Gather your recipes for the week and one by one go through each ingredient to see what you have versus what you need. Keep your recipes out, in the order which you will be cooking them. Another HUGE time saving tip is to write your shopping list out according to the aisles of your grocery store. If you are unsure of your store, take some time to mentally get to know it.
Now the big meal planning question? Which day will you choose to shop? I prefer a week day morning. Saturday mornings are great for those that work Monday-Fri, unless you can fit it in after work. This allows for the rest of Saturday and Sunday to prep and cook.
Meal Planning Part 2 Shopping:
tips for success:
- Know your stores sales and specials. (Some stores have specials on certain days. If you want to take advantage of them you may have to choose those days to shop.)
- Buy store brands…they are often tastier than the big name brand.
- Buy in bulk. Staples such as rice and grains don’t go bad quickly and buying bigger quantities will save you money. Also look at the cost of a 28 ounce can vs. a 15 ounce. If the larger is cheaper per ounce, buy it and place the extra in the fridge for another meal.
- Shop at discount stores… just be sure to check the expiration date.
And my biggest time saving tip with grocery shopping….Pack your own bags with like items that you store together. For example I put all my dairy in one bag, my meats in another, canned goods go in 1-2 bags, boxed items in one bag, toiletries in another and, well, you get the point. Then when you get home it is easy to unpack!
I hope these meal prep guidelines and tips in parts 1 and 2 have resonated with you and you begin to implement them. Keep a lookout for the next and final installment of this trilogy- all about the prep!
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