5 Ways to Start Your Weekly Meal Plan

Sometimes the hardest part to anything is getting started. For me and exercising, I find that once I put my exercise clothes on, I’m 100% more likely to go out. Likewise, with meal planning, settling on something to start with for the week helps to get the ball rolling. Here are some strategies I’ve used that you may want to try for planning your meals for the week!

1. Shop Local

We’re approaching the time of year when a Saturday morning trip to the Farmer’s Market becomes the perfect way to start a meal plan. When the Farmer’s Markets are a little less exciting, I’ll replace this with a short trip to one of the more gourmet grocery stores instead. 1/2 a bushel of fresh fava beans available? Time to find a recipe for fava beans. Six zucchini for $2? Time to plan some meals featuring zucchini. Fancy pancy cheese half price? Time to find a recipe to use up some inexpensive but super tasty cheese.

2. Shop Flyers

There is little sense in planning four beef dishes in a week if you have no beef and beef is not on sale anywhere, at least if you would prefer not to spend a tonne on groceries for the week! Perusing the flyers and planning your meals around the most inexpensive proteins for the week will help you stay on budget and give you a starting point to choose meals from.

3. Don’t Shop at All

Creating an inventory from what you have on hand can inspire meals using items on hand. There’s also nothing quite like freeing up space in the freezer by working your way through items your past self thought worth saving. From frozen meat and vegetables, to pantry items, to fresh items on their way out, there is often a lot of food to work from in your own home once you go looking for it.

4. Work With a Theme

Start with setting aside one day for a meatless meal (Hello, Meatless Monday’s!), one for chicken, one for beef, one for pasta, one for pasta, one for something egg-based, one for a slow-cooker meal, one for dinner out, one for tacos (that one’s for my sister!), etc.. I use this strategy most regularly in conjunction with the others.

5. Peruse Other Meal Plans

Whether they are my own (harmless, self-promotion here: http://eatingtheinternet.ca/category/meal-plans/), from a favourite cooking site (one of my favourites is: http://www.skinnytaste.com/meal-plans/), or maybe even a bank of your own standards, there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel. Even if you don’t end up following what someone else has created 100%, use it for inspiration!

What strategies do you use when meal planning? Perhaps try something new, and let me know how it goes!

 

5 Keys to Meal Planning

5 Keys to Meal Planning

In the last week, I’ve thought about some tips that I could share to those of you newer to meal planning, or those of you wishing to improve your skills. Here are my top five that will help you achieve success!

1. Look at your schedule

There’s no point in scheduling a meal that will take 45 minutes to cook on a night you will be exhausted and have to be in and out within 1 hour. Look at the week to come and decide which nights you need 15-20 minutes meals, which nights you’ll be meeting friends for drinks after work, which days you’ll be home all day and could make a recipe that takes longer, etc..

2. Make a comprehensive grocery list

There’s nothing worse than taking the time to plan a week’s worth of meals only to discover mid-week that you have no beef for your beef and broccoli dish. Right after I assign dinner meals for Sunday-Friday, I type out a grocery list, in order that I’d find the items going around the store, to ensure that I have everything for the week. I can’t promise you’ll remember to pick up everything at the grocery store, or that the grocery store will have everything you’re looking for, but having a comprehensive list will help stack the odds in your favour.

3. Plan for snacks

If you come home from work or school everyday with a grumble in your belly, you are much less likely to stick to any plan, let alone a meal plan. When thinking about what you’ll eat for the week, think of at least one “new” snack, whether it is something you’ll be baking and eating throughout the week or something that you haven’t had in a while. I have found in the last few months that baking something that will last at least 2-3 days, really helps me get my week off to a good start. My co-workers also agree (they get the extras!).

4. Talk to your family

My husband is pretty open to eating a wide variety of foods, but occasionally I forget that he doesn’t eat a lot of certain foods (hello memories of vegan chickpea blondies!). Touching base ahead of time about the portions of meals that the recipe calls for versus what you are actually intending on cooking also helps to share important information such as “we’re not making the 16 cups of chili that this recipe calls for, by the way” before one starts dumping six cans of beans into the pot.

5. Acknowledge that good enough is good enough

I love the phrase that “sometimes good enough is good enough.” It’s impossible to be perfect, even when it comes to adhering to the best-laid plans for your week. Accept that completing even 3/5 meals as planned some weeks is still a fantastic achievement.