I haven’t always been a meal planner, and frankly there are still times that I am not the best at planning meals. And on those days, I definitely feel the stress. It’s funny, if you would ask me to describe myself, I would say that I am adventurous and go with the flow. However, in reality I think I am much more of a planner than I might like to admit. For some reason being a planner has a somewhat negative connotation in my mind. I am slowly learning to get over my fear of being a planner because I am finding in this season of being a wife, mom, and entrepreneur planning is essential to my success and essential to my sanity.
One of the easiest ways I have found to incorporate some structure into my week is by meal planning, and up until recently I had only been planning our dinners. Until one day it occurred to me a few weeks ago to start planning for my own meals all throughout the day. I had seen other people doing this, but had never tried it myself for some reason. By doing this, I have found it much easier to keep an eye on my nutrition. I can visualize getting all of my food in and spread out throughout the day to avoid any energy crashes or mental fog.
If you’ve been meal planning for any period of time, then you might be able to relate to boredom. Week in and week out its the same thing. That will work for some, yet others may find that they need a little more variety. Essentially it is all about you and what works for you and your family. If you do feel like you’re ready to spice up your meal planning game, take a look at some of my best tips to do that!
o Create theme nights—soup/salad night, taco night, Mexican night, Italian…etc and don’t be afraid to sample new ingredients or try different recipes than what you normally gravitate towards. If you have kids, are a picky eater, or are married to one, then maybe try swapping out certain ingredients in familiar recipes to expand your horizons. The trick is to have a little fun with this and to try some new recipes. Keep reading for some of my main tips on how to shake it up a bit at meal time.
o Create a menu– allow yourself to spend a little time browsing recipes online or in some of your favorite cookbooks. Store the recipes in an easy to find place like a Google doc or a note on your phone. I know that I find myself in a meal planning slump when I don’t take the time to look at new recipes. I get comfortable with the same ol recipes and it gets boring. By browsing blogs, Pinterest, or magazines you can get some fresh, new ideas to add into the weekly menu.
o Check your pantry, fridge, and freezer to see what you already have on hand and what you would need to pick up from the store. (Who knows, maybe you will have all of the stuff on hand already to throw together a meal or two). As it gets closer to payday and money can be a little tight, this is one way to stick with your budget and use some creativity. You can either get bummed out by this, or you can pretend you’re a chef on a one of those cooking shows where they have to create a delicious and edible dish using the random ingredients they were given in their baskets.
o Create a list of all the items you will need at the store that way you don’t find yourself without one of the key ingredients. Ugh, have you ever gotten home, and realized you overlooked one or two key ingredients for that special recipe you were planning on making? I have. And it is no fun. I can usually make it work without it, but it never ends up being quite the same. By sitting down with your recipes to make your list you can guarantee the item will actually make it on the list (whether or not you grab it at the store is something else completely). Another tip is to make your list after going through your pantry, fridge, and freezer. This way you don’t end up doubling up on items. Wasting food is definitely one of the most expensive habits I have found a lot of people get into when trying to switch to a healthier lifestyle. This can be a deterrent to sticking with that healthy lifestyle.
o Prep some of the items before hand when returning from the store. This will save some time on the nights when you’re a bit busier. There will undoubtedly be some items you won’t want to prep too far in advance (veggies and fruits being some of them) as they can start losing their nutrients. But I would say if you are planning on using a marinade go ahead and get your meat in that marinade a day or so in advance. And if you are planning on using your produce within a couple of days, you would probably be okay to prep those too. A lot of sauces and soups can even be done in advance. This not only saves time, but usually those types of foods are better after they’ve had a chance to sit for a couple of days.
Those are a few of my top tips for spicing up your meal plan routine. I hope it inspires you to try a few new recipes this week. I’d love to know what you’re making at your house, leave a comment below so we can connect or you can find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/findyourthrive or on Instagram @find.your.thrive.