I don’t know what it is about meal planning, but I just don’t like it at all. I don’t like picking what I’m going to eat, I don’t like shopping for it and I don’t like making sure it’s prepared and ready to go. It’s all just so time consuming! That being said though, I know how important it is to make food at home and not eat out all the time. I’ve really been making an effort to make healthier choices and a huge part of that is having healthy foods readily available. Over my years of meal planning, I’ve put together some things to make it easier to plan my meals and get them ready so the task doesn’t seem quite as overwhelming.
Start Early & Break it Up
Okay, so I know it may sound crazy to some people to break up your meal planning (I mean c’mon, it doesn’t really take that long), but for me it makes it so much more manageable. I basically use my entire weekend to plan and prep my meals for the week. On Fridays I typically plan out what dinners I’m going to have for the week with my family. On Saturday, I decide what I want to have for breakfast, lunch and snacks. And then on Sunday I do my grocery shopping and prepare anything I need to for the week. When you plan your meals this way, it makes the daunting task of getting food ready for the week seem not as bad.
Pick Two of Everything & Use Similar Ingredients
When I say pick two of everything, I mean pick two breakfasts, lunches and snacks. Rotate between them throughout the week so you’re eating the same couple of things, but have different combinations on different days. This will also help to save money because you’re only buying enough food for two meals instead of 5 or more.
I also like to try to find meals that will use a lot of the same ingredients. Living off a serious budget right now, I’m all about doing anything I can to save some extra money. There’s nothing worse than going to the grocery store and buying a bunch of food, especially when you only need a small amount of an ingredient for one meal. I also tend to cut things out recipes. For example, I made a Mediterranean quinoa salad and while the recipe called for fresh parsley and onion, I decided to not include those. My quinoa salad still tasted just as good, but was easier to make and required less ingredients.
When it comes to breakfast, I’m pretty boring. I like to mix things up though and one of the easiest ways for me to do this is by making oatmeal or chia seed pudding. This week I’m having a peach-blueberry oatmeal and last week I had a zucchini bread oatmeal (it was delicious!). I typically have one tried and true meal that doesn’t take much thought, and one that is still easy, but is also something different. Some of the tried and true foods I typically have in the morning are:
- Eggs and chicken sausage
- Bagel and cream cheese
- English muffin with peanut butter
- Ham, egg and cheese on an English muffin
Lunch is ALWAYS my biggest struggle. It seems like no matter how many times I make lunch I still don’t know what to eat. Every week I spend forever trying to come up with what to eat. Recently, I’ve been making a lot of “snack box” style lunches. I’ll put a lunch meat, hard boiled eggs, a nut, fruit, crackers and a small dessert. I pack small amounts of these things and call it a lunch. Some of my recent ones have been:
- Turkey, hard boiled egg, peanuts, pretzel crisps apple and chocolate bark
- Ham, hard boiled egg, grapes, crackers and chocolate covered almonds
It’s so simple and is basically a different meal every day. Another lunch I always like the idea of having is salad, but it always seems like so many ingredients and work to make it happen. I tend to stick to quinoa salads because it adds some extra taste and makes it easier to bulk up the meal. I’m all about simple when it comes to food.
Since I still live at home, that’s the one meal I don’t have to worry about as much. My rule of thumb for dinner is:
- 3 nights – tried and true
- 2 nights – something new
- 1 night – eat out
- 1 night – leftovers
I have such a love-hate relationship with trying new foods, but I always use Pinterest (my meal board is here) or Mix and Match Mama to try to find a couple of new and easy recipes each week. Besides that, we put previously tried recipes on repeat. Friday nights tend to be the night I eat out and I like to use a weekend night (usually Saturday) to clear out the fridge of what’s left from the week.
If you’d like to see what a day of my eating looks like, be sure to check out this post. Also, be sure to let me know if you’d like to see an updated one! I know how much I love getting recipe ideas from other people.