Keeping up with eating healthy can be a real challenge when you have a busy schedule. To make matters worse, it’s hard to cook healthy food for yourself and other food for the family.
Do you ever feel like?
- You cook the same meals every week
- You’re always rushing for dinner
- You never have time to put a healthy meal together for work, so you end up eating junk
- You buy groceries that go to waste every week because you forget or don’t have time to cook them
- You start the day off with an unhealthy breakfast because it was the first thing you could grab and it sets off the rest of your day
Meal planning can resolve all those issues and it doesn’t have to take you an entire weekend to get ready for the week.
The point is to save you time, always have healthy and delicious meals available, and help you feel and look your best. And all this can happen even if you’re cooking for a large family!
Wouldn’t it be nice to do less work and get a raise? Because meal planning isn’t another chore, it’s the one action that’ll leave more money in your wallet while saving you in total time and effort throughout the week.
You’ll get what I mean when you try it. ?
And to get you started, here are 11 healthy meal planning tips every beginner should follow to guarantee you eat healthy.
HEALTHY MEAL PLANNING TIPS EVERY BEGINNER SHOULD FOLLOW TO GUARANTEE YOU EAT HEALTHY
You can check out 6 crazy obvious reasons you should meal plan in this blog post. But here I want to give you some tips to follow that’ll get you started on the right foot.
For healthy meal planning to be easy and quick, you must do it right. And it may take a little longer at the beginning, but your time will be well worth it in the long run.
There are a few tasks that will be useful when you start out and then you won’t have to do them again.
#1 PLAN AHEAD
Trying to plan out your entire healthy meal plan in one sitting, including looking for recipes, will take too long. So, it’ll be easier to manage if you search for yummy healthy recipes throughout the week and simply organize them before you go shopping.
Calendar your meal planning day, your shopping day, and your cooking day. The last two may be the same day, keep reading to see why.
If you live with anybody else, let alone an entire family, calendaring these tasks will let everybody know that it’s important.
Then, your shopping and healthy meal prep day won’t be trumped by another activity.
Planning ahead also allows you to be flexible. If you always meal prep on Sundays and this coming week you have a major event that same day, you can adjust your schedule to meal prep on Saturday instead.
#2 TAKE INVENTORY
Before you go shopping, take inventory of what you already have in your pantry and your fridge. Look out for basic healthy ingredients.
Keep a running tab of those basic ingredients you use most often, like spices and condiments. Then, you can mark off when something is missing and needs to be replaced. This will save you the hassle of repeating this step for frequently-used ingredients every week.
Pay attention to the foods that are about to expire or sitting in the back of the fridge or pantry. Use those first if you can. But, in general, this gives you an idea of what you and your family don’t like to eat. No need to include them as menu options.
#3 WRITE IT OUT
You can write it out digitally or manually, it’s up to you. But write it out. Make these lists before you go grocery shopping:
- The weekly healthy menu and what days each meal will be eaten. Use a calendar. Then make sure your meals later in the week don’t include ingredients that’ll be bad by then unless you can freeze them.
- The shopping list. Of course, this one is crucial to not forgetting any ingredients. You actually save money by going grocery shopping once a week (or less). It prevents you from grabbing things that aren’t on your list too.
- The menu and recipe ingredients. Having the recipe elements readily available is helpful when you go shopping. If necessary, you can substitute recipe ingredients for less pricey ones, or if any ingredient isn’t available.
#4 MAKE A LIST OF FAVORITES
What’s the point of meal planning if you’re gonna cook foods that nobody likes?
Having a list of favorite foods that you and your family like will ensure that your weekly menu is a hit with everybody.
This also gives you an idea of healthy foods you all have in common.
I believe that you should be eating with the rest of the family even if you’re trying to lose weight. How about cooking meals that everybody loves and also falls within your dietary guidelines?
I do this with my husband. Even if I cook pasta for him and I eat zoodles, I make the same sauce and protein for both of us.
I never feel like I’m missing out. He’s happy with his brown rice pasta. And zoodles take less time to cook than his pasta, so it doesn’t feel like I’m cooking a whole different meal.
#5 MAXIMIZE USE OF INGREDIENTS
One of the easiest ways to save time and money with healthy meal prep is by maximizing the use of certain ingredients.
Let’s say pasture raised ground beef is on sale this week and you decide to buy extra. You can make meatballs, burger patties, and cook a large batch of seasoned ground beef.
Freeze the patties or meatballs for a couple of weeks from now. Use the large batch of ground beef to add to breakfast egg cups, as filling for tacos, and as the meat in zoodle or pasta sauce.
In this example, the same meat was used as a component of three completely different and delicious meals. You saved money on meat that was on sale, and you maximized the use of the ingredient.
#6 CHOOSE ONE DAY TO SHOP, MEAL PREP AND COOK
I suggest you search for healthy recipes throughout the week unless you have an awesome tool like the one that I’ll go into detail about later.
Though not necessary, you save time by shopping, meal prepping and cooking on the same day.
How do you save time? There’s no need to store all the ingredients when you arrive to then take them all out when you cook. Meats don’t have to be defrosted for cooking. You can get right to it when you get back from the grocery store. All the ingredients will be fresh and ready for cooking.
You don’t have to cook everything in one day, but you can certainly prep at least a portion of each meal. For some recipes, you can mix the ingredients in a ziplock bag and freeze them until they’re ready to be used.
Meats with marinades are a great example of foods that can be prepped and frozen ahead of time.
#7 COOK THE MENU BASED ON PRODUCE EXPIRATION DATES
In general, produce goes bad after a few days. But there are certain vegetables that can be frozen for storage. Some other veggies turn to mush when you do that though. The same happens with fruit.
Plan out your menu to use the produce that can’t be frozen or stored for more than 3-4 days for earlier in the week.
This will save you a crazy amount of money because you won’t be throwing away food you didn’t use.
#8 USE DIFFERENT COOKING METHODS
Another thing that’ll save you time and make it more likely that you’ll stick to healthy eating is using different cooking methods.
You can make some breakfast egg cups for the week, then prep the freezer meals while you have chili cooking in the crockpot. The same goes for using the Instant Pot, or sous vide cooker.
It helps to add different methods to your weekly menu. Then you’re cooking several meals all at once, further reducing the time you spend in the kitchen on meal prep day and throughout the week.
#9 MAXIMIZE FREEZER USE
I’ve mentioned freezing food several times already. This can be one of your biggest time savers.
Season and marinate foods to prep for the week and then freeze them. Then, you just have to thaw them before cooking every day.
If you prefer to cook full meals that can be frozen and reheated throughout the week, chili and other soups are great for this.
#10 SHOP AROUND FOR LOWER PRICES
Healthy eating shouldn’t be cost-prohibitive. So, check out the difference between the prices of your most commonly used items in the grocery stores closest to you. Then, shop at the one that’s most affordable.
Also, check your area for fruit and vegetable co-ops. There was a time when I lived in Florida that I paid $20 per week to get a gigantic box of fruits and veggies twice per month. This was at a local church’s co-op.
All the fruit and veggies were organic and I received enough for a family of four to eat throughout the two-week span between boxes. I ended up giving away food most of the time. But I still saved a lot of money on groceries because I definitely paid more than $20 a week for organic veggies.
Another option is the Imperfect Produce service and Thrive Market. These can all help cut your healthy food budget costs drastically. Another way to make your new healthy eating habits sustainable.
#11 ALWAYS HAVE A BACK-UP
Life happens and sometimes you run out of an ingredient, you have unexpected guests, or time just gets away from you.
Having frozen veggies or precooked meats (which you can make yourself) available in the fridge or freezer can be a lifesaver.
Depending on who lives with you, a boyfriend, spouse, roommate, or older children, they can also be the back-up.
It’s important to involve the family in the process so that they know what to do if you’re not available. And I mean the entire process.
Invite them to help you with healthy meal planning and inventory. Get their suggestions about favorites. Take turns grocery shopping every week.
Most importantly, have the menu calendar and healthy recipes available for them to put meals together if you’re not around or taking a break.
BONUS TIP TO MAKE MEAL PREP EASY AND QUICK
Earlier, during tip #6, I mentioned a meal prep tool that’ll make your recipe search a lot easier. But, to me, this tool goes way beyond finding delicious healthy recipes.
It takes care of some of the meal planning for you. It includes resources to teach you every detail about healthy meal planning and meal prep, including how to do it on a budget.
If you’re crazy busy and want recipes made in 30 minutes or less, they have a whole category for it. The same goes for specific healthy dietary guidelines, such as keto, paleo, sugar-free, egg-free-, and gluten-free recipes.
It’s the Ultimate Healthy Meal Planning Bundle 2019. And I can’t tell you how excited I am about it!
It’s not just the fact that I contributed recipes inspired by my mom’s cooking and meal plans for events you’re hosting. I bought the 2018 version and loved it. Now, they’ve taken suggestions from customers and took 2019 healthy meal planning bundle to a whole other level.
Here’s a quick overview of what it includes:
- Over 1000 whole foods recipes so you can ditch the refined and processed foods that are keeping you from reaching your healthy eating goals.
- 38 meal plans that are already done for you to save you time planning out and developing lists of what you’re making for the week or for special occasions.
- Nutritional information for every recipe in the bundle so you don’t have to guess on macros and/or calories.
- All recipes indexed by dietary needs and guidelines to reach your health goals more easily.
- Up to one-month free integration with the Real Plan nutrition app, to create your meal plans in and have the app create your shopping list for you, amongst other perks.
- The ability to plan out your meals for the week, save money, and save time while doing all of it.
They also have an amazing freebie for you if you order before midnight on Thursday, January 3rd, 2019. You get the 30 Meals in 30 Days Challenge for FREE!
It gets you started on the right foot so you don’t buy the Healthy Meal Planning Bundle and then let it sit there unused. The 30 Meals in 30 Days Challenge gives you the support, encouragement and building blocks to eat 30 days of real food meals.
Oh, and before I forget, you can try it for 30 days. If you feel that it’s not for you, you can get your money back if you request it any time before your 30 days are up.
ARE YOU READY TO START HEALTHY MEAL PLANNING?
As we move into 2019 and the new year’s resolutions are being developed, think of what tools will guarantee that you achieve your goals.
If eating healthy and/or losing weight are resolutions you have for the new year, then meal planning is the new tool in your arsenal to help you stick to and achieve your goals.
Whether you do it manually or adopt a great tool like the Ultimate Healthy Meal Planning Bundle, let’s make this new year the one when you stick to your goals.
Follow the 11 healthy meal planning tips every beginner should follow and give the 30 Meals in 30 Days Challenge a try to see how meal planning really is for you!
Comment below and let me know what your biggest challenge is with meal planning.
And don’t forget to sign up for the Fit and Healthy Conversions Cheat Sheets to get a list of healthy ingredients and the measurements you can use to use them as substitutes in your favorite recipes.