5 Easy Steps to Making a Meal Plan
Making good food choices throughout the week is so much easier when you set yourself up for success prior to Monday morning. Dedicating just one hour of your weekend to meal planning and prep will have you enjoying the fruits of your labor with effortless work lunches and nutritious dinners all week long. Here’s how to get started:
1. Pick Your Planning Tools
There are many tools to help home cooks keep track of meal planning, but there is no one-size-fits-all option. To figure out which works best for you, try a few of these:
- Paper and Pencil: Sometimes a simple, handwritten list stuck to the fridge is all you need to keep track of what meal you’ve got on deck for the day.
- A Meal Planner: Our Meal Planner is a great resource to help keep all of your recipes organized and at your fingertips throughout the week. To access this tool, create an account and add your favorite recipes from our quiz.
- Shared Digital Calendar: If you’re meal prepping in tandem with a significant other or roommate, an online calendar can help hold everyone accountable with helpful, daily reminders.
2. Make the Meal Plan
Creating a weekly menu can be easy and fun, and it doesn’t have to feel like a chore. Try these strategies for setting aside time and curating a good mix of recipes:
- Look for Longevity: No one wants to eat the same thing every night, but pick one thing each week that gets better with age and can be eaten for a few meals throughout the week. For example, most soups and stews actually improve as leftovers and are good options for both lunch and dinner.
- Ensure Variety and Versatility: Be mindful that one recipe can actually lead to several different meals. For example, southwest chili can be enjoyed on its own, transformed into a quesadilla with some extra veggies, or a hearty breakfast if served with a fried egg.
- Don’t Forget the Snacks: Pick at least one snack-friendly recipe like hard-boiled eggs or hummus that can be used to enhance salads or squash a 3 o’clock craving for your vending machine favorite.
3. Streamline the Process
- Shortcuts are Ok: Store-bought rotisserie chicken, prepared salad dressings, and pre-chopped or peeled produce are all great time-savers.
- Strive for Efficiency: Break down all your veggies at once, don’t handle meat amidst other ingredients (to save time on hand and dishwashing), and keep your phone in another room to avoid distraction.
- Clean as You Cook: Try to wash dishes, or load the dishwasher, as you go along, so cluttered counter tops don’t stress you out while you’re in the middle of the prep process.
4. Stay Organized
Keeping everything clearly labeled will not only help you prepare your meals more quickly, but it will help you plan the order that you eat.
- Save Takeout Containers: This is an easy way to store ingredients and fully prepped meals. Mason jars also make handy portable containers for salads.
- Label, Label, Label: With some tape and a marker, clearly label what’s stored in each container and the date that it was prepared. This will help you to identify what needs to be eaten first, and sometimes, what needs to be tossed.
- Keep It Clean: Labeled containers are great, but they’re useless if you can’t find them in your own fridge. Create a system so you can quickly grab your lunch even when you’re battling pre-coffee grogginess.
5. Keep Things Simple
- Season With Care: When it comes to meal prep, be especially aware of how much you are salting and seasoning ingredients. If you’re using the same vegetable in multiple dishes, a strong flavor profile might not translate well from one to the next.
- Do The Math: Before you fire up the oven, identify what needs the longest grill time or highest temperature and pop that in first.
Our biggest piece of advice? Stick with it. It might take a few weeks of trial and error, but soon enough you’ll have it down to a science and you’ll never look back.