veggies in a frying pan

10 No-Fail Meal Planning Tips

Introduction

Meal planning lets you be more creative which translates into better nutrition pit stops you enjoy better! There are so many things you can do with just a few ingredients – let your stomach be your guide, and try some new combinations.

Meal Planning is efficient, reduces your stress of “what to have”, and can help you budget better. Eating food prepared from home helps to avoid highly processed/refined seed oils, refined carbohydrates, added fats and sodium, and to increase fiber intake.

“If you’re trying to improve your eating habits, a simple adjustment to your environment can have a big impact! If you have to go out to fulfill your cravings for chips or ice cream, you’re more likely to think it through than if those items are readily available for you in your pantry. Having a well-stocked pantry can also have the effect of less takeout and fast food, because you have items on hand to put together a better meal.” – Lauren Larson, MS, RDN

Below are 10 meal planning tips to help you start adding meal planning to your weekly routine.

But I’m Too Busy To Cook

mom in kitchen with 2 kids talking on phone

Frequently eating out (either sit-down, take-out, or fast food) may negatively impact the nutritional quality of your diet. Many places use more preservatives (added salt, sugar, oils) than you would prepare at home and they often don’t pay as much attention to the quality of the ingredients as you can.

Weekly Schedule

If your meals and/or grocery store trips are generally unplanned, your nutrition quality and your budget can suffer. Try to create a weekly schedule for planning, shopping, and food prep.

Just not a great cook? Start slow with easier recipes and work your way up – even try assembling prepared ingredients into a meal before cooking from scratch. Pinterest can be a great tool for meal inspiration by searching keywords like “easy weeknight meal” or “simple dinner recipe”.

You may also look into the possibility of meal kit delivery services as well. These can be a great way to test out new recipes and gain confidence. Save the recipes and then make them on your own.

Remember, your food doesn’t have to look like the images you see on Instagram or the Food Network!

Stock Your Pantry

In order to increase affordability, try to purchase dry goods in bulk, look for seasonal produce, and consider frozen which can be as fresh if not more fresh than ready-to-eat produce, meat, and fish.

When looking to stock your pantry, think about any gaps in your diet. Do you often make a meal, then realize it could use another protein source? Do you long for snacks that taste better and are better for you? Do you notice yourself eating the same thing again and again, and wanting more variety?

Take note of what you use, and how much, 1-2 months after stocking your pantry. This knowledge can help you decide when to buy in bulk or sign up for auto-deliveries, plus save money and avoid food waste by not over-buying.

Never Shop Hungry — Or Hangry

OK, I’m a realist. Sometimes you end up going to the store hungry or even hangry! If this ever happens to you, please purchase something to eat – eat it – and then go back to do your shopping. Give yourself a full ten minutes to let your food start to tell your brain it is getting what it needs to work better.

Going to the store hungry will make your stomach, rather than your brain and your bank account, do the picking… we’ve all gone home and been like “how did that happen”! When you’re making out your grocery list, check out what items are on sale at your local grocery store, and try to tailor your meals for that week to these sale items.

Batch Cooking

BATCH COOKING FOODS

Batch cooking can help with meal quality, especially during the workweek. Try to start creating large meals in a slow cooker or InstantPot. There are lots of recipes and tutorials available online.

Also, think about batch cooking large amounts of vegetables for the week (i.e. on a large roasting pan). Ask a registered dietitian for more suggestions.

For meal prep, think about batch-cooking breakfast for the week, such as a large breakfast casserole or several containers of overnight oats. Also, consider either eating leftovers for lunch (instead of eating out) or batch-cooking simple lunches for the week. If you need help with recipes and meal ideas, again ask your dietitian!

6 Meal Prep Tips For Busy People

mom with baby in kitchen

Feeling rushed to prepare for mealtime? Here are some meal planning ideas to help:

Buy pre-chopped or chop up veggies and keep them in the fridge for easy grab-and-go snacks or for a quick saute or as a snack for everyone while you prepare the meal.

Try cooking at times that are more convenient versus when you / others are already hungry.

Keep easy to cook protein on hand (eggs, packages of ground meat, packets of salmon, canned beans, organic tofu) that can be tossed in a skillet and cooked quickly or paired with leftover veggies.

Cook 2x as much when cooking so there are leftovers to quickly reheat

Don’t shy away from frozen veggies- they can last longer in the freezer, reduce waste, and can be just as nutritious.

Cook stews or crockpot meals that can be put together earlier in the day or the night before and cook hands-free, timed to be ready when needed.

Conclusion

When you’re trying to build and maintain better habits, it helps to have the tools you need at the ready. Meal planning in advance is the key to making good decisions and eating healthy.

Want to see how your eating habits stack up? Ask me about my free Eating Habits Evaluation to see what areas you need to work on. This evaluation was designed to help you evaluate which of your current habits are helping your body run better and where you may want to focus your efforts to improve habits for better results.

Go ahead – add your first meal planning session to your calendar now! Leave a comment and let me know how you’re doing.

***Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice***

About the author

Susan Taylor, RDN LD is a registered dietitian / nutritionist with 20+ years experience in the nutrition field.  Susan has worked in a variety of clinical settings including hospitals, longterm care, rehab, and private practice. She currently enjoys life in the Charleston, SC area and is always looking for ways to fit in a little more beach time.