7 Techniques To Make You An Expert Meal Planner
Written by: Drew Canole
One of the BEST things you can do to help you and your family stick to a good, healthy diet this coming school year is to PLAN AHEAD. Especially when you’re cooking for more than one or two (or three or four….or more!) it can be hard to think of a nutritious meal last minute without any forethought.
To make it more fun, get everyone involved. Hold a family meeting to come up with ideas, shopping lists and meal plans for the following week. This is not only an important skill for you but one you can pass on to your kids as well!
Who knows, maybe they’ll even take these skills with them when they move out for college!
Here are some basic tips and techniques to meal planning to get your muse rolling…
#1 Choose Your Meal Types
Have 7-10 types of meals written down (kind of like a template) that you make regularly to give you somewhere to start. For example:
Once you have these picked out you can choose how many of each you want to make in a given week (or month if you’re ambitious). It’s easy to pick recipes to use from there.
#2 Focus On Family Favorites
Every family has certain meals that just work for them. Everyone likes the recipe, it’s filling, nutritious, easy to make from things commonly found in your fridge and pantry, etc. Focus your meal planning around these “core” recipes.
As you discover these meals that work exceptionally well for your family, write them down. Try to build up a good list of 15-25 recipes or more. Once you have a list, it is easy to scan through it during meal planning and pick out which ones sound good for the upcoming week.
Once you’ve got that down, try keeping separate lists for each season that includes recipes containing seasonal foods. This will add variety to your kitchen and give the family a reason to look forward to each season. There are a lot of benefits to eating produce while it’s in season, almost like mother nature intended for us to eat it that way (imagine that!).
#3 Shop Smart For Protein
The priciest items on your shopping list will most likely be the meats and other proteins. Go for the less-expensive cuts of meats and stretch them out over several meals. If you do this, buying grass-fed, organic meats will likely be less expensive – just be sure to buy quality in order to avoid the yucky hormones and steroids they use in conventional meats.
Buying in bulk also generally gets you a less expensive price per pound. You can cook the meat all at once and freeze it to use later for convenience. You can also use the same type of meat in different ways in different recipes. For example, you can use ground beef to make lettuce wrap tacos and then on another day use it for homemade lettuce wrap hamburgers.
You can use the less-expensive cuts in soups, casseroles, as a salad topping and in stir fries. Leftovers work great for lunches!
#4 Get Creative With Spices
The same meal can be made to taste totally different if you simply mix up the spices. Don’t feel stuck to recipe specifics, become a chef in your own kitchen and get creative!
For example, when cooking tilapia or salmon, you can change up from using one type of spice to another. Stir fries are also a great area to try different spice blends. You can make something spicy, mild, tangy and sweet or even sour based on the type of spices and seasoning you use.
This enables you to use a lot of similar meals but still have variety and keep the kids guessing. It also helps if you can only think of one thing to cook that night, but it’s something you’ve had recently and you want to change it up.
#5 Dive Into Other Cultures
Every week have at least one night where you try a different cuisine from another country. With the internet being such an incredible resource you can find hundreds of recipes from around the world by simply picking up your phone or setting the laptop on the kitchen counter.
This can be made into a fun activity to look forward to for everyone in the family. You might even find some meals that end up on your “core meal” list.
Some of my favorite exotic cuisines include Thai food, Japanese food and European dishes.
#6 Remember: You’re Not A Short Order Cook
One of the best things you can do for your children is give them a wide variety of foods to eat and not let them always shrink away from things that look different or scary. They don’t have to like everything you make, but they should at least be willing to try it. If they hate it, they can eat more of the side dishes or pick out the parts they don’t like.
This is a good way to ensure you don’t raise super picky eaters. Granted, some kids will choose to be picky no matter what the heck you try to feed them while they’re young. But at least they will know how to eat healthy and they will understand variety.
Unless completely necessary, try not to feed the young ones different foods from what the rest of the family is eating. If they aren’t use to chicken nuggets, juice, fruit snacks, lots of bread, cereal and sweets, then they won’t ask for them as alternatives.
#7 Use Your Leftovers!
Beyond making some simple salads for the week, I rarely put any planning efforts into lunches. This is because I make enough dinner so that we can take the leftovers the next day for lunch. This is an easy way to save time in the kitchen and will usually be a lot healthier than a PB&J or takeout!
Soups, casseroles and stir-fries are easy to carry over into lunches. You can also use leftover meat from meals to top salads with.
Try to use glass tupperware or mason jars for leftovers that need to be reheated.
Sample 1-Week Meal Plan
Here are some of our favorite meals to try for your upcoming week! You’ll have to let me know if any of these become family favorites. 🙂
Monday: Greek Quinoa Salad
Tuesday: Lettuce Wrap Tacos
Wednesday: White Bean And Spinach Soup
Thursday: Lemon And Garlic Shrimp With Broccoli
Friday: Mushroom Spinach “Risotto” With Quinoa
Saturday: Balsamic Rosemary Chicken With Baked Cauliflower
Sunday: Lettuce Wrap Burgers
For more awesome recipes and meal planning ideas, try our Give Your Body 30 Program.
Preparation is the key to success! Although it might feel like it takes more time, in reality you’re going to save a lot of time and hopefully, save some money too when you pre-plan your meals. Once kids are old enough to start cooking, you can write the recipes down for the week’s meals on index cards and put them on the fridge. These come in handy for when you’re making a shopping list later on.
Putting in the work to eat healthy will pay off in every way possible. People don’t realize how much more fulfilling their lives can be once they start feeling better and living with more energy and vitality. Health is a foundation to a happy, long life!
Do you have any other meal planning tips I should be sharing? I would love to hear about them below. Maybe they will be featured in a future post!
Drew Canole is a rockstar in the world of fitness, nutrition and mindset, with a huge heart for others and doing his part to transform the world, one person at a time.
As the founder and CEO of Fitlife.TV, he is committed to sharing educational, inspirational and entertaining videos and articles about health, fitness, healing and longevity. He is also a best selling author and the founder of Organifi, an organic, incredibly delicious greens powder, chock-full of superfoods to make juicing easy no matter your busy schedule.
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