How to set up a weekly meal plan (and stick to it!)

How to set up a meal plan

Meal planning and prepping is all the rage lately, and I’m completely on board! I can’t get on social media without seeing a meal prep video or someone batch-cooking grains and vegetables. It all looks delicious and pretty inspiring, but is it really doable for your lifestyle? My friends, I certainly think so!

The idea of planning meals every week sounds downright ideal. A kale Mediterranean salad? How about some baked salmon and asparagus? Sounds easy enough, but the key to meal planning is staying consistent from week to week and having a set strategy, even when some weeks are busier than others.

Luckily, once you get the hang of it, meal planning can become a habit, just like making the bed. The goal is not to get overwhelmed by the process and just do it. You’ll be surprised at its added benefits—a consistent eating schedule and a healthy body and mind.

Here’s how I meal plan/prep every week. My weeks vary, especially if I go out of town one weekend and come back Monday morning. (I work a night schedule, so nurses and TV producers, you can relate!)

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I usually plan out my meals every Thursday or Friday prior to the week ahead. This will vary, depending on your schedule. I use a grocery and meal planner, which I got last Christmas and is so convenient! You can also download an app if you prefer having it on your phone. My grocery planner has spaces to put the dates, spaces for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, and even a tear-off grocery list on the side. When I begin planning, the first thing I do is inspect my kitchen and fridge. Is there anything in there that I can use up that hasn’t expired?  For instance, if I have a bunch of quinoa or pasta or frozen shrimp, I try to incorporate those into this week’s meal plan.
I usually have two lunch options and two dinner options for the week & plan what days I’ll eat them, depending on the serving sizes. I also cut recipes in half sometimes or freeze the leftovers.

My meal planner rests on my fridge where I can see it every day and know what I’ll be eating. It helps me stay on track and not be tempted to drive over to Zaxby’s or a local lunch spot. I usually don’t plan meals for Saturday and Sunday. I either eat leftovers or go out to eat, and I usually do grocery shopping on the weekends. The key is to find what works for your schedule. It’s really all about time management and figuring out when you can prep/cook your meals!

Here is my meal plan for this week:

I really try hard not to eat two of the same dishes in a row. This way, I don’t get tired of eating the same thing.

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Pinterest is a saving grace for meal planning! They have thousands of recipes from food blogs, digital publications and more. Save pins in a dinner/lunch category so you can refer back to them when cooking. I also cook a lot from my favorite cookbooks. Also, family recipes are great go-to meals to use time and time again, like my mom’s incredible lazy lasagna.

Here are a few of my favorite food blogs: 

Pinch of Yum

Skinny Taste

Love & Lemons

Cooking Classy

You can also check out my Pinterest page for some inspiration! If I use a recipe from Pinterest, I usually pin it to a specific category and then refer back to it when cooking.

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Jot down or pin recipes that have simple ingredients and are easy to make that you or your family will enjoy. Nobody has time to follow 10 steps! Slow cookers recipes are also great and require minimal effort. Once you meal plan a few times, recipes might not even be necessary anymore. Season & saute some chicken. Add some roasted vegetables and quinoa or rice. And you have a meal. Voila!

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Since I’m just shopping for myself, my grocery budget for the week is $50-60, so roughly $250 per month. I really try to stick to buying only what is on my list and buying pantry and fridge essentials. I also surpass the temptation to buy snack food and use up what I have until I’m out. I use coupons for certain stores sparingly, especially when it’s discounts for coffee or snacks.

I also bring a calculator and add up everything before I hit the register. If it’s over $60, there is usually something I can return to the shelf. It’s so important to have a set budget when you hit the grocery store, otherwise there is the temptation to overspend!

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The most crucial part of meal planning is to find extra time to prep ingredients. The easiest time for me to prep ingredients for the week is on Sunday night for about an hour or Monday morning. I cook grains or pasta, make salad dressings or sauces, marinade chicken for the next day and chop vegetables. Nights (or days) are less stressful when you all your ingredients ready to cook. Or if you prefer a lazier yet still perfectly acceptable approach, make a batch of slow cooker soup for the week.

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I love to buy in-season produce, especially fall produce! It gets me excited for the season of pumpkin everything…pumpkin alfredo, pumpkin pie oatmeal, to just name a few. I keep a list of fall produce on my fridge so I can change things up from week to week. This week, I made sweet potatoes, cauliflower and pumpkin the star of my dishes! OK, the pumpkin was actually pumpkin puree, but the grocery store surprisingly had the cans on sale too. ‘Tis the season.

Another great thing about shopping for in-season produce is they are relatively cheaper, especially at your local farmer’s market!

Here is a helpful seasonality chart:

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Meal planning/prepping doesn’t have to be such a daunting task every week if you have a good strategy and simple meals to go with it. I hope these tips inspire you to begin meal planning for you or your family!

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2 Comments

  • linda kimmel

    October 7, 2016

    A lot of good ideas! Another winner! Thanks.

    Reply
  • chelsea jacobs

    October 8, 2016

    This is so helpful!

    Reply

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