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If you’re like most of us, you have such a busy life, that making homemade, healthy meals each day is a constant struggle. Instead of just giving in and going through the local drive-thru or ordering pizza three nights a week, why not give meal planning and prepping a try? Here are some things to know about each of these options to help you save time, money, and still prepare healthy meals each day for your family.
What Exactly is Meal Planning?
Before you can start on your meal prep, you need to plan your meals. Meal planning is nothing more than figuring out what meals you are going to make in the next few days. It can be as detailed as you want, and the more specific the information you include in your meal scheduling, the easier the process will be.
By starting with meal planning, you will know what and how to better meal prep. This will save you time as you won’t be running to the supermarket every day trying to figure out what to get for dinner that night.
Here is a rundown of how meal planning works. Keep in mind there is a lot of room for variation, and you may find tricks and short-cuts that work for you.
How Many Weeks to Plan For
The first thing you should decide is exactly how much meal planning you want to do, that is, how many days or weeks to plan ahead of time. This really depends on you and a number of factors should be considered. Think about how much time you have for meal planning and prepping, how often your family likes to switch up recipes, and realistically what you can spend at the supermarket for planning these meals.
You should also consider how much room you have in your refrigerator and freezer. Planning for three weeks ahead of time may be fine for your schedule, but if you don’t have adequate storage for this amount of food, you need to take that into consideration as well.
When you are beginning this process, my suggestion is to try to plan for just one full week. This should include all meals and snacks your family will eat for that entire week, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and the occasional treat or dessert.
It includes meals you will prepare at home with leftovers and lunches you will bring to work or your kids may bring to school.
A Good Way to Start Meal Planning
If you’re not sure where to start with planning your meals, make it easy by taking stock of what is in your kitchen. Take note of everything in your pantry and refrigerator, write it down, and see what meals you can make from those ingredients.
This should be a good start, and then all you might need are some filler ingredients. You may have almost all of the ingredients you need for homemade chili, so you know you can have a meal that uses that chili as a way of saving money and time.
Once you know everything you already have, start considering what the different meals are that your family will be interested in, but don’t forget to consider how each of those meals will be prepared. If you know you will be pressed for time, try to think of meals you can make ahead of time or that can be made in the slow cooker all day while you are at work or quickly in an Instant Pot when you get home.
Next week we’ll continue the discussion of meal planning and will include the wonderful world of leftovers. You have no idea how amazing they can be. I personally make my life and my food prep so much easier by using them often and deliciously, so stay tuned!
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Cheryl A Major
Cheryl A Major lives in Westford and is a Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant. Her TV show, Thin Strong Healthy, airs on WestfordCat and is an offshoot of her blog http://ThinStrongHealthy.com Cheryl offers ongoing information, live and online courses and personal health coaching to help you feel better and be healthier. Follow Cheryl on Twitter @CherylAMajor. She is also a full time residential Realtor with Coldwell Banker with more than 25 years experience.
Cheryl’s book, Eat Your Blues Away is available this January in Whole Foods Markets, and she is writing her next book, The Major Method!