by guest contributor Brenda Haua
Meal planning makes you healthier, while saving you money and time.
Do you often come home and ask yourself “what’s for dinner” or find yourself mindlessly munching on whatever is in front of you?
One solution to this problem is menu planning. You might think it’s too much work, but the benefits make menu planning worth it:
Save Money. Too often I hear my friends say they bought vegetables or other goods and then watched them go to waste because they either forgot about them or didn’t know what to do with them. With a menu you can use every ingredient and reduce impulse buying at the market.
Save Time. You know what you’re eating ahead of time so you get quickly in and out of the kitchen. Keep the menu on your fridge to prevent you from standing around guessing what to make.
Improve Nutrition. People always ask me how I’ve kept my 80+ pounds off for over six years and the answer is this. Planning ahead means being able to create a menu that incorporates more fruits and vegetables. With meals planned out, you’re less likely to hit the drive thru.
If you’re sold on the idea, let’s begin.
Take Inventory. Grab a pen and paper and take inventory of what you do have. If you have a lot of one specific ingredient (kale for instance) that you need to use ASAP, write it down.
Recipe Search. Be honest, how many times have you come across a recipe on Pinterest, a magazine, or book and swore you’d try it out? Well, now’s the time to give those recipes a whirl. Creating pinboards is a great way to get inspired. Word of caution -- be realistic. If you have a hectic schedule choose recipes that take little time and effort by scanning the recipe ahead of time to get an idea of the time it may take.
Creating the Menu. After you’ve found your recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s time to write them down. I highly recommend focusing on dinner recipes and using the leftovers for lunch or simple salads. If you’re obsessively organized like me, you can use a menu paper pad (I found a great one at Paper Source that sticks to the fridge and has a Sunday-Saturday schedule).
Creating a Grocery List. Now that you have your menu, begin to create a list of groceries based on what’s needed in your recipes. Sometimes a recipe will ask for half an onion, and another recipe will ask for another half… be mindful of such so when you’re creating your list you don’t buy more than you need.
Meal Prep. Good job, we’re almost done! Grab a friend, boyfriend, spouse or the kids and make meal preparation fun! After I come back from a shopping trip, my boyfriend and I take time to wash and cut a lot of the fruits and vegetables so they’re easy to grab and use in recipes. In our household grapes, berries, carrots and celery are quick go-to snacks when they’re already prepared.
One last bit of advice -- take it easy. Like anything, this takes practice. Meal plan one week at a time and don’t feel like you have to plan a whole month of meals. After a few weeks, you can start recycling menu plans so it gets much easier with time.
About Brenda Haua - Lover of all things health, Brenda Haua first discovered her passion for health on her yoga mat in 2008. After losing over 90lbs in her health journey, she has dedicated her life to becoming a health advocate of clean eating, and healthy living. In 2013 Brenda completed her 200 RYT and returned to school to study Nutritional Psychology. When she isn’t writing or studying, she spends time with loved ones and works on hobbies that include crocheting scarves, cooking, and yoga.
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