Countless people get so overwhelmed when they are planning their meals because they think they need to plan for 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and 7 dinners. The idea of leftovers is completely thrown out the window. I know I was guilty of this for the longest time! I thought each week I needed to do at least 7 different dinners. I never worried too much about breakfast or lunch because I usually ate the same thing or something similar to my normal lunch and breakfast. Planning a different meal every night was my way of keeping variety in my diet. Changing things up. Planning and cooking 7 meals a week, along with working full time, and taking care of my family’s other needs, very quickly turned me into a stressed out wreck. The over planning, very often, led me to feeling extremely overwhelmed, throwing out a lot of wasted food, and ultimately, giving in to the temptation to eat out or grab something quick because it was the easier thing to do. Overwhelm, can very quickly lead to burnout and block our desire to plan wholesome, healthy meals. Even when we plan ahead, and have the very best intentions, if you aren’t making your meals fit into your very busy schedule, follow through on healthy eating is hard.
But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming, and it most certainly shouldn’t be hard. In fact, you can successfully plan meals for you and your family in 3 easy steps. Keep reading to see how easy it can be.
STEP 1: Figure Out How Many Meals You Need to Plan and Which Days You Will be Cooking
Like I said earlier, I used to think meal planning involved cooking a different meal every night. The concept of eating leftovers, to be honest, really never crossed my mind. I felt like I had to eat something different every day in order to keep things interesting. It honestly, seems boring to eat the same thing a few nights in a row. But I was so wrong! Realizing the freedom I had when I scheduled leftovers into our meal plan, changed my life. The relief that comes with only having to plan out 3 or 4 easy, healthy meals makes planning and cooking dinner so much easier. And, typically, 3 or 4 dinner meals a week can easily feed my family for 7 to 10 days. Life got so much simpler when I figured this out.
When trying to figure out how many meals works for you and your family, you want to ask yourself these 4 questions:
- How many people are eating?
- How much do they typically eat?
- How big is the meal?
- How long will it last?
When I’m searching for recipes (more on that below), I use these questions to guide me in my recipe choices. I know at each dinner, it will be me, my husband, and 2 children eating. Now, my kids don’t eat as much food as I do, and I don’t eat as much as my husband. When I look at the serving sizes I can usually gauge about how long the leftovers will last after I cook the meal. Usually it’s about 1 or 2 days, but some meals can last even longer. This helps me figure out how many recipes I need to plan to cook throughout the week, which days I will be cooking, and which days we can eat left overs.
Some people get bored easily with their food, and don’t like to eat the same thing 2 or even 3 nights in a row. I’m guilty of this! What I do when I’m planning is also figure out how long the meal will last in the fridge. Usually, we can eat on a meal most of the week. I simply cook another meal the next day, and then I have 2 meals available to me the following night. This allows for variety and doesn’t require you to eat the same thing multiple nights in a row.
STEP 2: Search Pinterest for Meals Featuring Foods You Like to Eat
I love Pinterest! The ease it brings into finding recipes is just amazing. When I’m meal planning, I usually choose a chicken, fish, and lean beef recipe. Just to keep things interesting and different. Eating chicken every night can be so boring! The key, is finding healthy meals that provide nourishment and energy to you and your family. When I search on the Pinterest website, I simply will search “healthy chicken recipes,” or “healthy fish recipes,” ect. And then Pinterest provides me with a whole list of healthy recipes. You can even simplify it further by searching “quick and healthy beef recipes” or “easy and healthy recipes.” This will lead you to recipes that won’t take a long time to whip up.
Once the search results are up, I spend a few minutes browsing through the pins until I find some recipes that catch my eye. I always look through the ingredient list to make sure the meal is actually healthy. Sometimes recipes will be marked as healthy but contain ingredients I don’t feel are the healthiest options for my family.
This is also where you need to be aware of which foods are more nourishing for you and your family. Always remember, what is healthy for some may cause problems for others. If a recipe is marked as healthy, be sure its the healthy foods you and your family’s bodies crave.
After you have found the right number and type of recipes you want to cook for the week, you are then ready to move on to the third and final step.
STEP 3: Create a Grocery List and Go Shopping
Once you have the recipes you want to cook then it’s time to create your grocery list and go shopping. This is pretty straightforward and doesn’t need much explanation. But, to make grocery shopping easier, I like to itemize my list into sections so I’m not running all over the grocery store. Before I got organized with my list I would be all over the place because I forgot the onion when I was in the produce section and then forgot the balsamic vinegar when I was in the condiment aisle. I know we’ve all been there! Getting organized with my shopping list made grocery shopping much easier and less stressful. To get your free, organized list to make grocery shopping much easier, enter your email in the form below.
Once you have your groceries bought, you can then prep your meals so they are ready to be cooked throughout the week.
Healthy meal planning really isn’t hard when you break it down. Making it simple, makes it much easier to follow through with healthy eating during the week.
I love hearing from you! What about meal planning frustrates you most? Have you successfully meal planned in the past? What other ideas and suggestions do you have to make meal planning fun and simple? Let me know in the comments below!