Meal Planning Schedule — (and the Benefits of Planning Meals)
Are you constantly wondering what’s for dinner and struggling with maintaining healthy eating habits? Or always ordering take-out because you don’t know what to cook? If you answer yes, having a meal planning schedule can be ideal.
Our team at FinditHealth found that having a regular meal planning schedule will allow you to eat healthier, stay more organized and even save money. Keep reading to learn how to incorporate a regular meal planning schedule into your life.
The Benefits of Meal Planning
There are many short and long-term benefits to exploring meal planning.
- Save money: By planning before you head out to the store, you’ll know precisely what items you need to get. You’ll be less tempted to pick up things you don’t need and avoid overspending on unnecessary food items.
- No stress: Not having a plan for eating can be super stressful, especially after a long day at work. Having a regular meal planning schedule will take the stress out of your life and give you more time to relax and for self-care. Meal planning also saves you time because you will do all your grocery shopping at once, and everything will be planned.
- Much healthier: When we don’t plan what to eat during the week, it makes it significantly easier to choose food options based on convenience. Like ordering out, eating fast food, or just grabbing convenience food that isn’t very healthy. By planning your meals, you are thinking about what you will eat and are able to make and stick with healthier choices.
Sustainability: Meal planning is very sustainable and allows you to have less waste because you only buy what you need. Every ingredient or particle of food has a purpose and plan for the week, so you will not have lots of leftovers or lots of food that you do not need and end up not eating.
4 Steps For Creating A Meal Plan
Step 1: Choose When To Start
The first step is pretty easy when it comes to creating a meal plan, as it’s just determining what day to start! By designating a specific day to start, you will start making it a habit, and it will become a part of your long-term routine. It also helps you set up grocery shopping on a weekly basis and helps with the time management of your overall schedule.
There is not a correct answer as to what is the best day to meal plan, but the weekend is generally the most preferred. This is because the majority of us have more free time on the weekend to go grocery shopping and be in the kitchen to plan and create our recipes for the week.
It’s also important to sit down and think about the week ahead as you plan your meals. Consider if you have any dinner with friends planned, are going out of town, or have any work or family commitments. By knowing your full schedule, you will be able to design and create meals for the days you need them instead of having too much food, and it is going to waste if you are eating out several times during the week. This can also be helpful if you have long days at work and need to plan easy, low-effort meals on specific days.
Step 2: Plan Your Recipes
After determining your schedule, you will then know how many days and meals you will need to plan and start meal prepping for the upcoming week. We will go over a few tips to help you get started on a weekly meal plan.
First, have a list of your favorite healthy recipes. This is anything that you love and crave regularly and find yourself eating over and over again. They are easy to create meals and ones you know that you will enjoy and can even consider as last-minute meals. We recommend building most of your meal plan schedule around these recipes and then having a few per week that are new from a recipe book.
Next, make sure all your meals are balanced and delicious, and you are getting a comprehensive set of nutrients. You want to have several types of protein like fish, beef, and chicken, so you don’t get bored. Also, make sure you incorporate fruits and vegetables into every meal as part of a healthy diet. These can be done with simple tricks like a side salad for dinner or a fruit smoothie with protein mix for breakfast. If you are struggling to create a healthy mind, it can be wise to work with a functional nutritionist.
Last, before you go grocery shopping, consider the ingredients you already have on hand in your kitchen like olive oil and spices. Take these items into consideration and build meals around them for the week, so you are not wasting food you already have in your kitchen.
Step 3: Schedule the meal plan
The next step is deciding what days are best for each meal so you can create a weekly menu. For example, on busier days, you will want to have meals that can be ready in under 10 minutes, whereas saving longer prep time for days that are not as stressful. This can be an optimal step, and you can eat meals as you go. We just find it helpful to have a schedule for super busy weeks.
Step 4: Create the grocery list and go shopping
Now that you have your schedule and list of recipes, it’s time to get the items needed and create a shopping list. Review your meals for the week and write down all ingredients you will need to buy. Make sure to check your fridge and pantry first for any items you might already have on hand. This can also be a great time to check and clean out any expired items or food that has gone wrong.
Eat before you go grocery shopping so you will not be tempted by the food you do not need, and take your list with you.
Extra Tips For Meal Planning
One of the most important tips we have is to be conscious of expiration dates, especially when it comes to fresh ingredients. With fresh vegetables and meat, it’s best to plan these meals for the beginning of the week.
Consider buying frozen vegetables and fruit because these have a longer shelf life and give you more time to eat them for the week. Another tip is to think about ingredients that could be used for multiple meals. This can save you a lot of energy, time, and money down the road.
This can be meatless Mondays and taco Thursdays and a fun way to switch things up and get into a routine. You can include your family or friends into theme night and make it a social outing. Another way to help you get out of a rut is to look at Instagram or Pinterest for ideas.
While social media has it’s pros and cons, it can be especially insightful for new recipes and ideas.
Building This Into A Routine
Be patient with yourself as bringing any new habit into your routine takes time, practice and patience. There will be weeks where it seems easy, and others where you fall behind or recipes don’t work. All is okay, and remember this is a journey into long-term habits.
Give yourself some grace, especially as you encounter life changes. When kids and school, and then last-minute work events, sometimes meal planning will be more challenging. This is where it’s helpful to remember easy meals that can be ready in less than 10 minutes or even encourage you to ask your partner or family member for help.
Conclusion – Research by Findithealth.com
Members of the FinditHealth research team found that by starting a meal plan today, you are progressing towards meal planning becoming a part of your long-term routine.
You can constantly reassess and adapt the strategy as needed as your move on your health journey. A regular meal planning schedule will save you time, money, and stress and be a great asset in your busy life.