When it comes to what we are going to eat for dinner, there are a lot of factors that can come into play. Everything from what groceries you have on hand, to how much time and energy you have, to what your taste buds are craving! Food prep takes work but it is something that I think pays off over and over again.
When my husband and I lived in Toronto, I started meal planning and we saved $10-20 every week, which was a huge incentive to keep going with it. Since then, we’ve evolved and look forward to additional perks such as wasting fewer ingredients (like ½ a bunch of cilantro), having quick meals ready for busy nights, and ultimately gaining more pleasure from anticipating what’s on the menu.
If you’re new to meal planning here are a few ideas to get you going:
- Start with planning only a few meals per week. Inevitably things change during the week. So planning only a few meals allows for some flexibility and doesn’t leave you with excess groceries at the end of the week.
- Look at your schedule when planning your meals. Knowing your time commitments and schedule can help you choose meals that are going to match your night. If you have an evening commitment, then eggs or a salad may be all you have time for!
- Grocery shop in advance. Once you know your meal plan, you can do one grocery shop and have all your ingredients ready to go.
- Having a theme can help generate ideas. Coming up with meal ideas is often the toughest part of meal planning, so pick a theme to help keep it simple. Meatless Mondays, Pasta Tuesdays, Mexican Wednesday, Stir-fry Thursdays, Fish Fridays – are all examples of what a theme could be. The average family has 10 recipes in their repertoire; so don’t worry if things reappear from week to week!
- Write it down. Having your plan written down helps keep your meal ideas at the forefront of your mind and keeps you accountable to your plan. A whiteboard on the fridge, chalkboard on the wall, or even jot notes on a piece of paper all work.
Once you have a routine of meal prepping, it’s easy to adjust and see additional benefits…
- Look at your local grocery specials before planning. This can be a great way to generate ideas of what to make AND save you money.
- Do some preparation in advance. If you know you are making a curry with rice one day, cook twice the rice and make a rice bowl the next day. Help cut your kitchen time down by preparing things in bulk for several meals or cooking certain ingredients in advance.
- Try one new recipe per week. I love cookbooks! Finding one that inspires you can be a great way to keep your meal plan exciting. A few favorites include: Oh She Glows (vegan), Plenty More (vegetarian), Rebar (vegetarian), the Loonyspoons Collection, Bonnie Stern’s Heartsmart… and lots more!
Whether you’re cooking for one, or for a whole family, there are lots of benefits to gain. If it’s healthy eating, or saving on your groceries, I hope these ideas help encourage you to make a plan and stick with it.
Feel free to share your weekly menu or post a favorite cookbook here or on Facebook – we appreciate your comments!
Dr. Chanel Cressman, ND