We’re officially two full months into the New Year and we’d love to know: How are your resolutions holding up? If you remember, our first blog post of the year was all about our no-fail plan to getting organized in 2018. One of the strategies we recommended was meal planning. Why? Because whether your goal is to eat healthier, save money or eliminate the daily “what’s your dinner” worry, meal planning is a tried and true method of accomplishing all the above. For this particular blog post, we decided to break meal planning down into simple, actionable steps.
- Determine Your Timeframe
To get started with your meal plan, you’ll need to consider your timeframe. Does it make sense for you to plan one week of meals, or one month of meals? The key here is deciding what feels right for you. If you’re the type of person who gets overwhelmed easily, then considering a weekly plan might work best for you. Or if you’re on the other end of the planning spectrum, planning for the entire month may be the way to go.
- Find a Meal Planning Template
Finding the best template for your chosen time frame will help set you up for success. There are a variety of free forms online (check out our Meal Planning board on Pinterest) that you can print and fill out by hand or via computer as you move through the upcoming meal planning steps. And don’t forget phone apps! Here’s a handy list of the best meal planning apps from Digital Trends.
- Calculate Total Number of Meals
This step will make a big difference in how you approach meal planning for your determined timeframe. Do you like to eat out once or twice a week, either going to a restaurant or ordering in? Then skip those days in your count. Are you going to include breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks? Or just dinner? Charting out the exact number of meals you want will help provide a framework to also determine recipes and grocery lists and help you start populating your template. We recommend starting simple: For week one, just decide what you’ll eat for dinner.
- Decide What to Eat—Yum!
This is where it gets fun. There’s a whole world full of delicious recipes to explore that can fit a variety of budgets, diets and palates. One great place to start is with your favorite family recipes—the ones you find yourselves making over and over again. Next, search through any favorite cookbooks you might have and search the web. Make sure you flag favorites along the way or start a Word document or Pinterest Board dedicated to your favorite meal planning recipes. There are also apps that save recipe clips and ingredients. Consider mixing up the degree of difficulty in the recipes you keep, too. While you might appreciate making something completely new every once in a while, a simple meal of spaghetti can go a long way at the end of a tiring day, as does the ease of throwing a roast into your slow cooker. And don’t forget to make enough for leftovers for lunches the next day!
- Buy What You Need
With your meals planned out, make your grocery list. Begin by seeing what you have on hand first. Next, head to the store to buy necessary ingredients. Some meal planning templates include a separate space for grocery lists. There are also grocery shopping apps that go a long way, some of them updating automatically as you search for recipes. Others sync with coupons that can help save money. To make shopping super simple, grocery delivery might be a good option to consider as well.
- Consider a Meal Subscription Service
One final way to streamline meal planning is to sign up for a meal subscription service. There are so many options out there today, each one designed for different budgets and diets. Most offer a sizable discount for your first order. These services allow you to choose your recipes, which means you can try something you might not usually cook or stick to more familiar favorites. Bonus: You get to keep the recipes to use again. To get acquainted with some of the top services, this Forbes article is a good start.
Be sure you check out our Pinterest board for more inspiration and share your experiences with us in the comments!