I’ve never been much of a one size fits all kind of person. It just doesn’t seem to work. And when it comes to meal planning, I’ve had to learn over the years what works for me. I’ve spent so much time and money wasted on food I didn’t like or couldn’t eat all of because I didn’t plan well enough. So today friends, I want to save you as much trail and error as possible. Let me teach you how to make meal planning work for you.
When it comes to creating a system that works, you have to ask yourself a few questions first. How much time do I have? What is my budget? How many people am I feeding? What am I really going to eat?
How much time do I have?
This question can inform a good chunk of your meal planning system. Some people love to meal prep and just reheat throughout the week. I’m not one of them. Others love to pre-shop and cook throughout the week. Or maybe you’re someone who likes to meal plan for a few days at a time so you don’t get bored. Whatever your schedule looks like, make a plan that works for you. Being realistic with your time commitment can save you money in the long run. If you buy a bunch of food only to eat out all week, it’s both wasted time and money. Take the time to be honest with yourself about what kind of time you’re really going to take to plan ahead.
What is my budget?
There’s nothing wrong with being budget conscious with your meal planning. And there are tons of great ways to save money on groceries, I actually did an entire post on it you can check out here. But one of the best ways to save is to buy seasonally. If you’re trying to buy for fall, here’s what you’re most likely going to find at your local farmers market: arugula, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, chiles, coconut, collards, cranberries, fennel, grapes, kale, lemongrass, limes, pears, persimmon, pomegranates, pumpkin, shallots, swiss chard & winter squash.
Don’t be afraid to swap in ingredients in recipes for those in season. Or if you’re super creative in the kitchen, make up your own! A tray of roasted veggies with a homemade simple dressing can be a quick, easy and cheap way to stay on budget and shop in season.
How many people am I feeding?
Much of meal planning tips come from years of failed attempts. For example, I used to be incredibly bad about making meals for 4 when I was only feeding one. I would get so sick of the meal or I’d end up with meals for 4 that I really didn’t like. Then I would try to freeze the leftovers for later only to throw it out a few months later.
Look at how many people you’re feeding per meal. Do you need leftovers to take to work the next day? The general rule in our house is that no one wants to eat something for more than two meals. So when I plan for my family, I typically plan to for each meal between 4-6 depending on what I’m making.
What am I really going to eat?
I mention in today’s video that making a bunch of healthy food you aren’t going to eat isn’t helpful way to meal prep. And I speak from experience. In the past, I’ve pulled together a bunch of recipes from magazines because they were healthy. With my ingredient shopping list, I bought all the stuff and made one or two meals only to hate them.
Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to eat salads for every meal. But if you love salads, go for it! If you’re going to plan meals for your week, they need to be meals you’ll eat. Knowing you have something you’ll enjoy eating can be key in keeping you from that extra meal out and even keeping you on track to health goals.
Now if you’re curious as to what my personal meal planning looks like, it’s actually fairly simple. I plan for a few meals for the week based on whatever cookbook I’m currently testing and then I creatively and fill in the rest. I’ll pre-make a sauce (pesto is my go to) and salad dressing at beginning of the week to throw together meals. And towards the end of the week, I’ll make what I call my kitchen sink meal. It’s typically a mash up of whatever is left in a salad or soup.
However, you decide to meal plan don’t forget to give yourself time. Every time I’ve moved I’ve had to readjust myself and my meal prepping. If it takes you a month or two to get your plan down, it’s okay. Or maybe your meal planning is a delivery meal service weekly. The goal of meal planning is to give yourself healthy choices, be less wasteful and to make life easier. You’ll get there in no time!