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Planning your meals is one of the easiest and fastest ways to make a change in your budget and health. Yet, it can seem overwhelming and confusing when you first start right?
Meal Planning Tips For Beginners
If you are new to meal planning and feeling overwhelmed here are a few tips to get you started meal planning like a pro.
Make A List Of Food Your Family Likes
The very first thing you should do when starting to plan your meals is to make a list of foods that your family enjoys. You could print out a seasonal list of foods or create your own list from scratch.
This is a good way to help find recipes that your family will enjoy. After all, there is no sense in filling your meal plan with recipes that have foods in them your family just won’t eat. That’s a sure fire way to increase your grocery budget by wasting food.
Instead, use your list of in season and favourite foods to pick out recipes that you know will be a winner!
Set Meal Planning Goals
Take a little time to think about why you are trying to plan your meals.
Is it to:
- To save money?
- Reduce stress?
- Add variety to your meals?
- Reduce food waste?
Meal planning can reduce your stress, especially on those crazy, busy days. I know during our main garden planting time in the spring that I need quick and easy meals on our menu. Since I’m going to be working outside all day, this is not the time to try a new widely complicated dish no matter how amazing it looks on Pinterest.
If I have a lot of appointments one week I’ll plan to use my crock pot. Using your crock pot is a huge time saver and planning simple, easy meals means you can put dinner together quickly, turn it on and have supper ready on time in the evening.
Are you trying to improve your health or lose weight? If so finding a diet plan that works for you and keeping track of how many calories you eat each day is a big help.
Planning your meals ahead of times meal you can do all the math once and as long as you stick to your meal plan you don’t have to worry about what you eat. Just make sure you plan a realistic diet plan so you can enjoy eating and feel successful at the same time.
Meal Prep Storage Containers
One important and often overlooked part of meal planning is your storage containers. The type of containers you have on hand will make a big difference in how you plan and prep your meals.
First, decide if you want good quality plastic containers or glass. Plastic is lightweight and easy to use in the fridge, freezer or to take with you on a trip. However, plastics can contain chemicals that can leach into your food over time. If going with plastic storage containers make sure to buy high quality and BPA free containers.
With glass storage containers you don’t need to worry about chemicals leaching into your food. You can use them in the fridge or freezer as long as they are stacked properly. You can also use them in the oven, unlike plastic containers.
If you are doing meal prep for lunches and snacks then bento boxes and soup containers and small glass or plastic containers with dividers are great choices to have on hand.
If you’re planning to prep full meals then using larger storage containers with sections for proteins (cooked meat), vegetables, fruits and sauces/dips are a good choice. Remember to never store raw meat in any container with fresh foods even if it has a divider.
Think about what types of meals you’re going to plan and make sure you have the right containers on hand to make your meal prep an easy job.
Weekly Or Monthly Meal Planning
Next, you will want to decide how long a time period you want to plan your meals for. The two most common lengths are 1 week and 1 month. If you’re new to meal planning or have struggled to keep up with it in the past I recommend that you start by planning 1 week at a time.
Meal planning 1 week at a time will help you to take advantage of weekly sales and plan around your schedule a little easier than monthly planning.
Have a look at your week’s schedule and note what days are going to be busy for you.
Maybe you have a big planting or harvest day on your homestead, maybe it’s a day of appointments, it really doesn’t matter what it is, just know that on these days you need to plan quick and easy meals.
Use your favourite food list or seasonal food lists to help you pick out recipes that will be a good choice for the busy days first. Then fill in the rest of the days with recipes your family loves but might take just a little more time to prepare.
These are some simple meal planning tips to get you started. There really is no right or wrong way to meal plan. Just find the foods that work well for your family, make your plan, and take some time to do meal prep once a week.
Doing this will save you a lot of time and money and it will get easier the more you practice planning your meals.
Kim Mills is a homeschooling mom of 6 and lives on an urban homestead in Ontario, Canada. Blogging at Homestead Acres she enjoys sharing tips to help you save money, grow and preserve your own food.