Want to eat healthier and save money? Are you tired of spending hours in the kitchen every day? If so, start planning your meals!
Menu planning is the best way to clean up your diet and reduce waste. On top of that, you'll spend less money on food and have more time for yourself.
There is more than one way to plan your meals. Some people do it every week, while others create menus for the whole month. Seasonal planning works too, and can be used year after year. So, are you ready to give it a try? Here are some easy menu planning tips to help you out:
Assess Your Needs
Before creating a menu, ask yourself a few questions. What foods do you like? What foods do you hate? Are you on a special diet? Is your family dealing with any food allergies, such as gluten or lactose intolerance?
Set long term goals and plan your meals accordingly. For example, if you want to lose weight, create a menu that's based on whole, natural foods. Cut back on sugar, trans fats, starches, alcohol, sodium, and highly processed products.
Most meals should provide lean protein, complex carbs, and heart-healthy fats. The key to optimal health is eating clean at least 80 percent of the time. Keep this rule in mind when planning your meals.
Choose a Menu Planning Method
Decide whether you want to plan your meals every week, bi-weekly, or monthly. Each menu planning method has pros and cons.
Weekly planning gives you more freedom and flexibility, but can be time consuming.
Bi-weekly planning seems to work best for most people. You can plan your meals for just one week and fill in the next week’s menu along the way.
Some people prefer monthly meal planning.
This method can save you time and money in the long run. The downside is that it rarely works for those with an irregular schedule.
If you're on a strict diet, consider seasonal menu planning. This approach is ideal for people with good organizational skills who don't mind sticking to a menu. However, it may not be the best choice for frequent travelers and business professionals. If you enjoy cooking and trying new recipes, stick to weekly menu planning.
Once you choose a menu planning method, decide how you're going to implement it. For instance, you can schedule certain types of food on particular days, such as fish on Mondays and Wednesdays, soup on Thursdays, and meatballs every Friday for dinner. Some families cook Italian food on Mondays, Lebanese food on Tuesdays and so on. Others assign one type of food to each day of the week. There is no right or wrong way to plan your meals. It all comes down to your needs and preferences.
Create Your Grocery List
Make a grocery list based on your meal plan. Add staples like milk, coffee, tea, fruits, vegetables, and bread. Substitute high calorie ingredients with lighter versions to cut calories and eat healthier. Choose coconut oil instead of margarine, oat or almond flour instead of white flour, and stevia instead of sugar. Stick to your menu and don’t buy anything that's not on the list.
Consider a Menu Planning Service
If you are short on time, or don't know where to start, you may want consider a menu planning service. There are many available online that cater to various diets and specific needs.
Some of the best include:
Frugal Real Food Meal Plans from Tiffany Crumbs – An all-inclusive meal plan, which not only provides recipes and shopping lists, but also tips for how to make it work for you! And . . . it's ready every month, before the month even begins!
Real Plans – these plans are completely customizable. You can even import recipes! There are over 1000 recipes already on the site. And each is made with real food ingredients.
Check out this video to learn more about Real Plans. (I love that they include recipes from Wellness mama and Nom Nom Paleo – two of my favorite websites).
You don't need a menu planning service to get started! Just jot down a few family favorites and make a list of ingredients and you are off to the races.
These services may come in handy during busy seasons or when you just want to take something off your plate.
I'd love to hear what works for you!