Meal Planning 101 (a how-to series) – Part 1
I’m going to begin this post with a confession…tonight (THURSDAY) is the first night this week that I have actually cooked a real meal. It has just been one of those weeks. I forgot to lay out some meat to thaw on Monday and Jeff ended up running by the grocery store to get some pre-made chicken fingers because I could cook them in a hurry. On Tuesday, by the time I got home from the gym, I just didn’t feel like cooking and we ended up eating hot dogs. Yesterday, I went to my parents’ house and stayed late so my brother could see Jack when he got off work, so I picked up take-out on the way home. It has been a long, crazy week, and even though I love to cook, it has been tough to get in the kitchen and create healthy meals this week.
I think this is a pretty common problem. All of us are busy. We run around from one place to the other, we get home late, and we just want something to eat that tastes good and makes our families happy. So how are we supposed to get a healthy, home cooked meal on the table in the midst of our busy lives? It is possible, and the key is planning ahead.
I know that meal planning is hard. It takes organization. It takes time, which is something that is in short supply for most of us. And sometimes, no matter how well we plan, life still gets crazy and we pick up fast food or scarf down junk food because it’s fast, easy, and we’re stressed (or maybe I’m the only stress eater out there…but I doubt that).
Meal planning can feel like a hassle, but it is worth it, and here’s why: if you have a plan and have invested time and money into it, you are more likely to follow through with it. It’s one thing to say, “I’m going to cook healthy meals every night this week.” It’s a totally different thing to plan out those meals, shop for the ingredients you’ll need to make those meals, and prep those ingredients so that putting the meal together when you get home is quick and easy. When you know that you can toss a good, healthy meal together in 15 minutes because you have prepared for your crazy busy life, then you might not give in to the temptation to swing by the drive-thru on your way home.
I haven’t been doing a lot of meal planning while I’ve been out on maternity leave, but I go back to work next week and I know that our lives are about to get even crazier because of that. I’m starting my meal planning for next week today, and I will complete small tasks between now and then to help my week get off to a good start.
Do you need help planning your meals for the week? Follow along with me as I create my meal plan and learn how to create a meal plan without spending hours and hours worrying about what’s going to be on your plate (because we’re trying to SAVE time here, not add a major thing to our to-do list).
- Inventory your kitchen.
- Find recipes and create your plan.
- Shop for and prepare your ingredients.
- Make use of your leftovers.
Tonight, I’m going over Step One: Inventory your kitchen.
This is always the first thing I do when I begin to meal plan. I try to be a smart shopper and stock up on items when they are on sale, so instead of heading straight to the store I always check my pantry and freezer first to see what ingredients I have on hand already.
I have been stocking up on meat as it has been on sale, so my freezer is pretty full. My pantry is looking a little lean because we were on a Whole 30 last month (which pretty much eliminates all processed foods) and we’ve been buying lots of perishable things like fruits and veggies.
Here’s what I already have in my fridge this week:
- One package of chicken thighs
- One bag of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- One chuck roast
- 2 one pound packages of ground chuck
- One pork roast
- One pack of boneless pork chops
- 2 packs of bacon
- 1 bag of frozen broccoli
- 1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables
- 1 bag of frozen rolls
I know that is a lot of meat to have on hand, but I have been trying to only buy meat when it is on sale and keep it in the freezer instead of being at the mercy of the grocery store because I NEED a certain protein when it isn’t on sale (because meat is expensive, y’all).
In my pantry, I have the following staples that could be used for creating meals:
- 2 cans of green beans
- 2 cans of chicken broth
- 1 can of beef broth
- 2 cans of coconut milk
- Rice (white Minute rice and flavored rice mixes)
- Bow tie pasta
- A couple bags of dried beans
- Various spices
- Cooking oils – olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil
- Baking Basics – flour, sugar, brown sugar, cornmeal, almond flour, coconut flour
- Russet potatoes and a few sweet potatoes
- Red and yellow onions
- Fresh garlic
Now that I know what I have on hand, I can start to plan my meals. I always start with the protein that I am going to be cooking with. This week, I have a good assortment of beef, chicken, and pork. I like to rotate my proteins (so we don’t have chicken every single night), and I have some really good options with waht I already have.
Now that I have taken inventory, I can begin Step Two: Find Recipes and Create a Plan.
Tomorrow, I will be sharing how I create my plan for the week and some great resources for finding easy, healthy recipes.
If you are new to meal planning, make sure to follow me through this series. If you follow each day’s step along with me on the blog, you will have a solid plan for your week next week! I’d love for you to follow along and let me know what you plan and how it goes for you!