When I hear “meal planning” I envision intense recipe selection, where ingredients from one dinner can be used in the next day’s lunch. Where portions are calculated precisely enough so each family member gets X amount of meals and every mealtime is accounted for. Grocery lists are exact in the number of potatoes and ounces of cheese to be purchased and at least a few hours every Sunday are blocked off to measure, chop and bag all ingredients for the week ahead.

Woah. That way did not suit my lifestyle, or most of my clients! So, I found strategies that have been working for me ever since. Here is my simpler approach to meal planning so you can healthfully eat at home no matter how busy your week!

Planning Your Week

Planning your week does not have to happen on Sunday, or even the weekend at all! Pick a day that works for you that week, where you have time to look at the rest of your week and plan what you’ll do for dinner. keep in mind, planning and grocery shopping do not have to happen on the same day.

Here are factors to consider:

  • Look at which days you have the most and least time to get dinner ready.
    • Are you walking in the door at 7:30pm or do you have from 5:30pm onwards to get dinner together?
  • Determine how many people will be eating that night.
    • Just you? You and your spouse? Kids?
  • What leftovers/ingredients need to be used before they go bad?
    • If you have a half pound of ground beef left from another recipe and a sweet potato, search for recipes that use those items first.
    • Are there leftovers in the freezer or meat that can be thawed and used that week? Set it out now so you don’t forget!

Picking your recipes:

  • Don’t over plan! You can eat at home 5 nights that week without cooking 5 nights.
    • Pick 3 recipes that will stretch over the week.
  • Consider your timing.
    • Do not try new or complicated recipes on nights you know you will be short on time.
  • Write out your final plan.
    • I use a wall sticky menu that I write each night’s dinner, even leftovers which I call an “eatpeat”! Try a chalkboard or dedicated menu planning notebook and see what works for you.

Types of Recipes for Busy Nights

When you don’t have much time, and want to eat at home most – if not all – nights of the week, dishes that come together quick and/or make a ton of servings are your best friend.

Here are 3 types of meals I like to make:

Casseroles

  • Makes 6+ servings
  • Can prep ahead
    • If you have even 30 minutes the night before, in the morning, or mid-day, you can prep the ingredients or even assemble the casserole so all you have to do it pop it in the oven when you get home.
  • Freezble
    • Go ahead freeze half of your large casserole so it doesn’t end up going to waste.
    • If possible, cut into portions before freezing.
    • Label your tupperware so you know what’s in it weeks from now!

Slow-Cooker

  • Makes 6+ servings
  • Super simple to prep ahead.
    • Often just throwing a few ingredients into the pot and turning it on!
  • Great for varied dinner timing.
    • You have to eat and leave by 8 and your spouse isn’t home until 8, or the kids all have separate activities and have to eat at different times.

Halfway Homemade

  • Stock up on pre-prepped items
    • Fully cooked chicken sausages, boxed soups, pre-made pizza crust, canned chicken, etc.
  • Throw a few together for a more rounded meal.
    • i.e. Boxed soup with diced chicken sausage and microwaveable brown rice together make a gumbo.

Biggest Takeaway

Don’t feel like you have to do all and do it all each week! Some weeks will surprise you and you end up eating out more than you planned. That’s OK! Get back to to your regular schedule as soon as you can.

Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. You don’t need to make your own pasta and start eating Paleo or Vegan to be healthy. Focus on making a healthier choice, not the healthiest choice.

Outsource! Use resources like Peapod, Instacart, or Amazon Fresh, and avoid the time-suck of going to the store.

My favorite recipe sites:

Skinnytaste.com
Pinchofyum.com
Gimmesomeoven.com
Wickedspatula.com
Fitfoodiefinds.com

I love helping busy women find healthy solutions that fit their life. For more information on my health coaching programs, contact me at Samantha@simplywellcoaching.com!

Content provided by Women Belong member Samantha Kellegren

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