If you know me, I love to plan. So no surprise that I am a huge believer in meal planning for a healthy lifestyle. Meal planning can also decrease the number of trips to the grocery store per week (saving time) and keep you on budget (saving money). Therefore, I am so excited to share these two meal planning templates that you can print and copy for weekly meal planning! Now it is time to get inside the dietitian’s head! Here is my thought process as I plan weekly dinners:
1) What is going on this week? Meal planning is not just about food choices, but also time restraints due to schedules and activities of family members. This will dictate the likelihood of preparing an elaborate meal or indicating that the crockpot better be filled in the morning. On my 5 day dinner meal planner I leave an entire box just for these type of notes.
2) What is in the pantry? It is best to look for fresh produce that may go bad or leftovers that may need to be eaten up ASAP. Also take stock of staples like herbs and spices that may be required for certain recipes. There are also those foods bought in bulk (in my case brown rice and quinoa) that can be included as sides.
3) Choose your meals! Take time to incorporate a new recipe or pull out the trusty old faithful meals. I typically pair my proteins and vegetables first and then add any side item to round out the meal. If you are following a meal plan for say diabetes, take time to look at the carbs per meal and list actual serving sizes (ex. ½ brown rice). Maybe you are counting calories or grams of protein for weight loss and the same approach can be taken. This is the most time consuming step! Get input from the family to keep everyone satisfied for the week!
4) Choose to make leftovers! Decide the quantity you plan to cook. Including one night to rely on leftovers can decrease waste and save time from cooking :) Meal extras can also be packed up for lunch the next day (Wes always takes ours) or frozen for a night the following week.
5) Create a grocery list! Now that it is all spelled out, review recipes and meals to create a grocery list for fresh produce and items not in the house. Once that list is complete, head out to the store and shop by the list. You also have the opportunity to plan/shop based on coupons and store specials by previewing flyers and weekly ads prior to planning.
Click here to access the menu planners:
- 5 Night Weekly Dinner Planner
- 5 day dinner planner (PDF format)
- 7 Day Weekly Meal Planner (includes breakfast, lunch and dinner for 7 days)
- 7 day meal planner (PDF format)
So there you have it! Hang the menu up on the fridge and keep an eye on it all week. I always need the reminder to defrost frozen meats in the fridge during the day (the safest method), so reviewing the menu every night ideal. Planning reduces the stress in my life and helps Wes and I maintain our healthy lifestyle!