Meal planning can be an elusive task for a novice as they find the intermediate steps overwhelming. Planning your meals ahead is like future planning. It makes you be positive and curious about your upcoming days. A simple meal plan can train your mind to look forward to a better week.
A conscious lifestyle requires effort, and people willing to schedule a meal planning time in their life can create a positive mindset. In these few hours, your focus is on making healthy choices. What do you want to feed your body, your family, the quality of food you cook, the recipes you want to try, and the budget you want to spend?
If you sit and answer these questions for a few hours, you’re free for the rest of the week. If you don’t plan your meals, you might have to answer the same questions several times during the same week. This adds stress due to the lack of a proper schedule to cook, shop, and eat in the right manner.
If you have a notion that meal planning is expensive, time-consuming and a lot of work, you may need a change of perspective. It can be a simple self-care routine for your mind and body, but with just thoughts and an action plan. This gives you an hour or two of a peaceful time to sit with a paper and pen and think about food. How gorgeous does it sound?
In this article, I will give you a step-by-step guide to meal plan your breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner for the week. Before you create a weekly meal plan chart, you must follow 6 steps to execute it in the perfect way. Let me brief you about the meal plan and simplest way to implement it in your everyday life,
6 Steps to Implement an Effective Meal Plan
Choose a comfy corner desk and sit with a cup of your favorite beverage. Take a notepad and a pen and start thinking about your upcoming week. Write the regular schedule, tasks, and projects you have to complete in the week. You will get an idea about the overall nature of the week. It can either be a dull or a busy week ahead.
Next, note down the number of days you have to cook and the number of family members, health issues, and diet type if any. With these criteria in mind, write a skeleton of the below steps with spaces to fill in later. Here’s a sample of how your paper should be,
Step 1: Time Period
The foremost thing in meal planning is to choose the time. For how many days do you want to plan your meals? Say, if it’s for 5 working days Monday-Friday, write the dates and days on a table. Also, check the number of meals you need. It can be 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 5 dinners for the week.
Step 2: Type of Meal Plans
The second step is to choose a meal plan based on your necessities. If you are following a specific diet, detox habit, or nutrient-rich menu, include that in your meal plan. Meal plan need not be boring, you can jazz up the chart by focusing on seasonal produce, a specific meal plan approach, or a balanced diet.
We can do meal planning in different ways,
• Cook and store similar meals for 5 days
• Use one ingredient and make multiple meals
• Prep for the entire week and cook every day
• Plan each recipe and cook on one specific day
• Freezer meals
• Plan a seasonal menu with a particular ingredient
• Diet-specific meal plan
• Nutrient-specific meal plan
Figuring a meal planning schedule can be a fun-filled experience and it differs from one person to another. Based on your week’s purpose and need, you can create a meal plan by including a specific fruit, vegetable, nutrient, or diet. If not, be a free spirit and cook anything you want randomly for the week.
Step 3: Budget
Money matters the most in creating a healthy and effective meal plan. If you have been grocery shopping regularly for your family, you will know the exact amount you spend for a week. The minimum budget for planning a weekly meal plan can be around $5-$10 (350-700 rupees). You can make 5 breakfast, 5 lunches, and 5 dinners with this money unless you spend on restaurant meals and exotic produce in the week.
If you are a newbie, start creating a meal plan with a $10 budget and slowly decrease the amount if you can. This can give you confidence and an added energy to implement meal plans regularly in your lifestyle. When you shop for a specific amount weekly, you will see a difference in your budget. You will reduce your spending or make several meals with limited produce.
Step 4: Ingredients List
For creating a budget-friendly, healthy meal plan, it is important to choose ingredients based on their affinity towards one another. You can either list the ingredients beforehand and shop them within a budget or buy cheaper products first and then plan your recipes accordingly. It is best to keep a budget margin for shopping ingredients based on a specific nutrient, diet, and vegetable. If you find seasonal produce or one specific ingredient on sale, you can buy them in bulk and meal plan for the week.
The choices are enormous but ensure you choose healthy and balanced ingredients for a week. Check my balanced grocery list to create an effective ingredients list for the week. It is necessary to include fruits, vegetables, protein, carbohydrates, and fat in every list to prepare a balanced meal plan. Change ingredients every week to create a variety of recipes for your family members.
Step 5: Recipes List
There are plenty of sources available online to get fun and interesting recipes that you can enjoy cooking for the week. Browse on Google, Pinterest, Instagram, and websites to find a handful of specific recipes matching your meal plan for the week. It will take 30 minutes to choose 15-20 recipes based on the ingredients you have on hand.
It is best to shop for ingredients first and then search recipes, as the vice versa can be a tedious job. When you list certain recipes first and shop for their ingredients later, your budget will skyrocket and also leads to plenty of food waste. Choose ingredients and list out the recipes in a note to create a meal plan in a jiffy. If you want to save money on groceries, check the other simple meal planning tricks you can implement while grocery shopping.
Step 6: Dedicated Prep Time
A meal plan can become a success only when you allocate dedicated prepping time for the week. It can be a minimum of 60-180 minutes depending on your requirement. Divide the meal prep time for adjacent days too. The meal plan has no definite set of rules. You can choose flexible and alternate timings for prepping ingredients, breakfasts, lunch, and dinners.
Since breakfasts are a priority, try to choose some make-ahead breakfast recipes for the week. This will save time in the mornings on hectic workdays. You can prep the ingredients and store everything in separate containers for cooking them during the week. Sheet pan and baked dinners work best as freezer meals. Thaw and reheat them later for weekday dinners.
Here I have chosen a simple vitamin C meal plan, check out the budget, ingredients, recipes and prepping time to implement it at your home.
Meal planning requires strategy and thoughtful implementation, which you can master with little patience and practice. Try this easy step-by-step guide to create amazing meal plans for your family.