In my opinion meal planning is one of the best ways to have more nutritious balanced meals, save time in the kitchen and save $$$ on groceries.
Here are the steps I take when planning the meals for one week.
Step 1: Figure out what you want to eat
This isn’t always a simple tasks. Maybe you have a favorite cooking book, website or blog you like to go to for recipes. Check them out, but remember – you want to have a good balance in each meal.
In your meals you want to cover each of the macro nutrients: healthy carbohydrates, lean proteins and good fats.
First I think about my lean protein sources I want to have in the upcoming week. This week I decided on chicken x2, fish, flank steak, turkey/chicken sausage and beans. From there I create my menu.
Meal 1: BBQ chicken pizza on a whole grain crust
Meal 2: Crispy chicken nuggets and sauteed broccoli, carrots and kale with a side of pineapple
Meal 3: Foil baked pesto black bean cod with roasted red and yukon gold potatoes and red bell peppers
Meal 4: Broccoli white bean cheddar soup with roasted curry sweet potato rounds
Meal 5: Turkey/chicken sausage with homemade veggie tomato sauce and brown rice pasta
Meal 6: Spinach salad topped with flank steak, red onion and orange segments. Wheat squash roll on the side.
Meal 7: Dinner out.
Each meal contains a healthy carbohydrate (whole grain pizza crust, whole grain chicken nugget breading and pineapple, black beans and potatoes, white beans and sweet potatoes, brown rice pasta, wheat squash roll).
Lastly I like to round out the meals with vegetables and/or fruits (spinach, corn, red onion and red bell pepper on the pizza, broccoli, carrots, kale and pineapple with my chicken nuggets, potatoes and red bell peppers with my fish, broccoli in my soup and sweet potatoes on the side, zucchini, mushroom, onion, yellow and green bell peppers with my pasta, spinach, onion and orange with my salad).
Step 2: Write a grocery list
Now that you know what you want to make, check your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what you already have on hand. Before I add anything to my grocery list I write down categories on the page: produce, meats/dairy, frozen, bulk and pantry. This makes the shopping trip easier so that I don’t have to go from one end of the store to the other more than once.
My grocery list for the dinners
Produce: Mushrooms, sweet potatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, spinach, arugula, broccoli and pineapple
Meats/Dairy: Fresh mozzarella, sharp cheddar and cod
Bulk: White beans
Pantry: Fire roasted diced tomatoes
This dinner grocery list is pretty short because I had a lot of the ingredients on hand already.
So you can probably see that there are items pictured above that weren’t on that list. After I write out my dinner grocery list I add the items from my “running out” grocery list kept on the fridge.
This included bananas, butternut squash, eggplant, half n half, millet, wheat berries, brazil nuts, red wine and whole wheat tortillas. If some other fruits or vegetables look great and are a good price I tend to pick them up too. That’s one thing I make sure to always have in my kitchen — lots of fruits and vegetables.
Step 3: The execution
When it comes time to actually make your meals it helps to keep the recipes you plan to make in the kitchen. I like to keep a list of what meals I’m going to have on each day. That way I don’t have to think about which meal to make when I come home.
The great thing about having a meal plan ready is that if you don’t feel like having the meal you planned you know that you have options to choose from and your ingredients will be there waiting for you.
This past week’s execution was tasty 🙂
Meal 1: BBQ chicken pizza
Meal 3: Foil baked pesto black bean cod
Each of these meals took about 20 – 45 minutes to make, except for the pizza. Since I knew the pizza would take longer I planned to make it over the weekend because I’d have more time.
I hope these few steps help you out during the week. Figuring out what to make can be challenging, but if you plan ahead it can make the world of a difference.
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