10 Easy Meal Planning Hacks You Need to Know
Some of the links in my blogs may be affiliate links. See my disclaimer page for more information.
One of the biggest pitfalls in diet and healthy eating is the rushed dinner, pizza order or drive through pick up because it’s been a long day and we simply want to relax rather than cook a whole dinner and all the effort needed to pull that off. This is where meal planning comes in!
One of the best habits for eating healthy, avoiding poor food choices, and weight loss is meal planning. But it isn’t always easy to get started…
Use these 10 meal planning hacks as soon as possible to make meal planning easy, inexpensive and a functional part of your healthy lifestyle!
You might also want to check out my other blogs to help you with tips on finding and saving recipes, mapping out a plan that will fit your family’s needs, and then putting it all together.
10 Easy Meal Planning Hacks
#1 Cook Once Eat Twice
Always be on the lookout for ways you can make two meals by cooking only once. You could cook a large roast for dinner and use it later in the week for soup or sandwiches. The same thing with a whole chicken it can be roasted with vegetables one night and another night used for chicken tacos. This meal planning hack will save you time and money that is why I put it at #1.
#2 Only Try 1-2 New Recipes a Week
It is bad enough if your family hates the 1 or 2 new recipes you made this week. But a whole week of dinner flops would be disastrous! Just try a new recipe or two each week while sticking with the ones you already know you enjoy the rest of the week. This will keep you from starving all week!
#3 Try Themed Meals
Plan out themed dinners for each week. It helps to have daily themes that your family and you will remember. Less thinking = more time!
Some ideas are Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, and Waste “Less” Wednesday [Leftovers night]. Routines are very helpful when meal planning while the themes still allow for trying new things.
#4 Leftover Night
Have leftover night the day before grocery day. This will help you get your fridge cleaned out so it is ready for fresh new groceries. Plus you will know what you have on hand and not overbuy at the store. Another option is to have leftovers the night of grocery shopping.
#5 Eat Before You Shop
Grocery stores put things they want you to buy at eye level. They expect you to purchase things on impulse. You will make a lot more impulse purchases when you are hungry. Eat before you go so you will be less tempted. This works well with hack #4!
#6 Involve Your Kids in Meal Planning
If you are stuck on ideas, don’t be afraid to ask your kids for help! They might have some suggestions that are not only healthy but help you put a varied list together for the following weeks’ meals.
Besides if they help pick out recipes to try, find the ingredients at the store, and help prepare it that almost guarantees they will try it.
#7 Don’t Cook 2 Different Meals
You don’t have to cook 2 meals for Meal planning to work in your house (1 for you and 1 for your family). That will actually drive you insane, trust me I know! I’m a mom of a large family and there was always someone that was not pleased with dinner.
Instead, think about ways you can tweak the meals your family already enjoys to make it healthier. Try adding an extra cup of veggies to the soup.
Swap out ground turkey for the hamburger. Or better yet sneak in some ground mushrooms in place of a pound of meat it has the same texture and takes on the taste for the other ingredients. Check out my blog for more ideas on How to Eat More Vegetables the Sneaky Way.
Have a “taco” bar so everyone can choose their own ingredients. You can offer spaghetti squash as an option instead of pasta. Or try cauliflower instead of rice. I have found that when I offer options they tend to at least try them.
#8 Be Strategic with Your Meal Planning
When you’re trying out new recipes for the first time schedule them for your less busy days. Same goes for the more complicated recipes.
When you have little to no other obligations you will have the time to devote to the preparation without becoming overwhelmed. Avoid the soccer practice nights or softball tournament weekends.
#9 Let the Tools Do the Work for You
Crockpots and Instant pots will be your new best friends when it comes to meal planning! If you don’t already have these two tools you might just want to look into getting them ASAP.
Ah, popping the ingredients for dinner into a crockpot that will cook while we’re your away from home (or just busy) is the best! It makes for a great option when all we have to do is just serve and eat dinner.
The thing about crockpots though is you need to remember to start them early in the day. So, when you forget or just can’t make a recipe in the crockpot that is where the instant pot comes into play. An Instapot cooks things quickly!
Both of these cookers are fantastic investments and with a little creativity can make some very tasty meals as well!
#10 Be Patient
Remember with anything new it takes time to get into the swing of things before it really shows how helpful it is in your life. Take baby steps and be patient with yourself.
If you are eating all your meals from a box or drive-through window, planning a week’s worth of home cooked meals will be overwhelming. And you will quit before the week is up!
Just try one or 2 nights at first and keep adding on as the weeks and months go by. Once you have a few weeks under your belt make a Master Family Favorite’s list to reflect on when you are ready to plan again. Keep adding to this list as you try new recipes. You too will eventually have a month of things to choose from like I do at my house.
You also don’t have to clear out everything in your pantry. Buy new things each time something runs out and purchase a healthier option instead.
Now it is time for you to go plan!
Which tip was the most helpful to you? Do you have a meal panning hack that works in your house? Feel free to share below.
I’m planning an upcoming free challenge in my Journey in Wellness Facebook Community (click on the link if you would like to join!). I do free challenges every month along with daily resources, strategies, and support.