Updated: Aug 3
Meal planning is an effective tool for reducing stress, reducing food waste, saving money, and supporting healthier eating practices.
However, meal planning can be so challenging! It's challenging just doing it, and it's challenging knowing what to plan. And just like any tool, if it's not being put to use, or is not being used properly, then it's not going to be very effective.
Time management plays a big part in following through with planning meals. But arguably, the most important element for effective meal planning is:
Use these methods to keep a good appetite and consistently write out menu after menu:
Look at your favorite restaurants' menus.
What would you order? Can you try making those dishes at home? There's a good chance you'll find a recipe somewhere for that dish. You could save money, you could make it healthier, and it might even taste better! On the subject of restaurants...
Use the "build your own meal" method.
Look at the concept used in restaurants like Chipotle, CoreLife Eatery, Qdoba, Subway, Moe's... These restaurants have individual ingredients at the ready to prepare a unique meal for you. And there's no reason why you can't do this at home! In fact, using this method could carry you through an entire week of meals, each one a little different every time. And as you may guess, this method is great for families, meeting the needs for all individual preferences!
Browse through magazines and cookbooks.
Hint: photos bring on the appetite!
Magazines can add up quick, so it might help you to follow these "Stay Inspired Rules":
Flip through new magazines within a month of receiving them.
Past a month: either commit, or toss it!
Rip out intriguing recipes (then recycle magazine). If using a digital version: bookmark! Store physical recipes in a meal planning folder/binder where you're more apt to see them when you're actively planning.
Keep recipes that are truly amazing! You could keep the original, or you might prefer to re-write it into a format that's consistent with your organizational method.
Get rid of anything that was just okay. Chances are, you'll come across something like it again. Recipes are ubiquitous, and you need to stay inspired! Just okay recipes are uninspiring.
When looking through cookbooks, note what looks delicious and feasible for you to prepare within a designated period of time.
For example, within a week, you might only be able to prepare one special breakfast, three unique lunches, and three individual dinners. However, your friend who's a stay-at-home mom with four kids might be able to pull off three more-involved breakfasts, five lunches meeting each child's needs, and five individual dinners. It all depends on your household size, available time, and if you like eating/freezing leftovers.
Altogether, meal planning takes time, effort, commitment, and responsibility. With patience, practice and inspiration, you'll find a method that works well for you and yours!
The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting a doctor. Consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website. If you're interested in making dietary changes, guidance from a nutrition expert is highly advised. Please review our Nutrition & Wellness Services here.