These meal planning and prepping tips can set your week up for success. It does not need to be complicated or require you to spend an entire day in the kitchen. Time spent planning and prepping early in the week can drastically save you time during the week and ensure that you stick to your healthy meal plan. Here is a road map on how to successfully plan and prepare your meals for the week.
The first of the meal planning and prepping tips is to do some menu pre-planning. These are several reviews before you begin the actual menu planning. These may seem like a waste of time at first, but they are actually key to menu success.
Review your inventory: Write out what food you currently have on hand in your fridge, pantry, and freezer. I like to keep a running list on Apple Notes on my phone. Assess what you have on hand that needs to be used up soon.
Review your family calendar: What events do you and the members of your family have going on for the week? Are there any work dinners? Any birthday parties? Any late soccer games? Evaluate what days will require quick meals and what days may allow for more time to cook.
Review your local grocery store ads to spot sales: Protein is often the most costly item in your meal. I recommend shopping for the meat that is on sale that week as well as produce.
Review your recipes: See what possible recipes you can make incorporating the protein or sale items. Find recipes that use what you have on hand that needs to be used up. Lastly, find recipes that can fit with your time constraints.
The next meal planning and prepping tip is to plan out your menu for the week. Based on all the pre-planning information you have gathered so far, create your road map.
Plan Your Menu Items: Write out a listing of what you are going to have for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for the entire week. Be realistic. If you currently eat out 5 days a week and cook 2 days a week, Don’t plan to cook 7 days a week with recipes you have never made before.
My Typical Week:
- Breakfast: 1 for the week
- Lunch: Leftovers or sandwiches (which I have ingredients on hand for)
- Dinner: 5 unique meals, 1 takeout/restaurant, 1 at the in-law’s house
- Brunch: 1 Weekend
- Snacks: Variety 3 fresh and/or dry
Schedule your meals for each day: After planning your week’s menu, plan for what days of the week each meal will fall on and write it down! The day of your kid’s soccer game maybe a good idea to have a leftover night. The day with absolutely no outside activities maybe that is the day you make the homemade biscuits or try a new recipe.
*Banana Pancakes, Protein Bars, Chicken Burritos
The next meal planning and prepping tip may seem obvious but many skip this step, is to make your grocery list. Because you have all your meals and snacks planned, make your list for everything you need. You may think you remember everything you need or what you have at home, but this is never the case.
Make your grocery list: Consider each menu item, each recipe you are using, and what you already have. A complete grocery list will keep you from impulse shopping. Getting everything you need will also eliminate the need for take-out when you are missing an item in a recipe.
Shop your grocery list: The bulk of your work is done. You should be proud of yourself. Shopping for an entire week may take some time to complete. Plan to shop when you are fresh and not hungry. You may prefer to do your planning in the evening and shopping the next morning.
Grocery Quick Tips
- Go shopping only once per week- if you go more often you normally end up spending more money.
- Only shop at 1 store, maybe 2 at most. Based on your local ad review, shop the store with the best protein on sale. Yes, you could drive all over town to get the best deal at each store but often you will end up spending more money and waste time. For me, I normally go to Sprouts for the bulk of my protein, fruits, and veggies. Once per month, I will go to a big-box retailer (i.e. Target, Walmart, or Costco) for more of the canned goods, dried products, and snacks. This is because the prices are better and these items can be stored for long periods of time so no need to make this part of the weekly trip.
- Farmers Markets- these are a great place to get fresh fruits and veggies. Also, you can often find a good deal and support local businesses. My only caution is to be careful to not impulse buy and waste time.
- Delivery is another great option to look into. Be sure to look in your area to see what is available. Also, check if there are any fees or minimum order amount required. Benefits: save time, can help from the impulse shopping, and you can see your total before you check out. Disadvantages: cannot see the local price markdowns, sometimes it is more difficult to find the items online than in-store.
Meal pre-prepping is something that many people never do and is one of my essential meal planning and prepping tips. After your shopping is complete, plan the preparation of your meals and see what can be done in advance.
Pre-wash all produce: Wash all the produce before it goes into the refrigerator. This is one of the easiest things that can be done. Simple put all the produce in the sink and wash it all at once.
Look for prep windows: Look at the calendar to see when you may have a pocket of time (can be a little as 30 min) to prep some of your food to make your meal plan possible for the week. I can normally carve out time on Sunday when my husband is home and can take care of the baby. If he is unavailable, I try to take one of my little one’s nap times and focus on meal prep.
Review your menu: Questions to ask yourself to assess what can be pre-prepared:
- Breakfast: What can you prep for the week? Can you chop your fruit? Can you bake your muffins?
- Veggies: Are you having veggies as a side dish for your meals? Can you chop in advance so you can quickly throw the dish together? Can you cook the side dishes and put them in food-safe containers so that you only have to focus on the protein the night of the meal?
- Protein: What dishes are you making for the week that requires pre-cooked protein? (example: Chicken Burritos that require pre-cooked shredded chicken)
- Carbs: What dishes require carbs that need to be prepared? (example: Brown rice that can be pre-cooked.)
Once your week is set up for success and your meals are pre-prepped, make sure that during the week you stick to your menu. You specifically bought your groceries and scheduled your meals realistically and on convenient days so that you could execute your menu. If life happens and one meal does not get made according to plan, prioritize making that meal the following week.
Extra Tips for Success
Pack food ahead of time: If you work outside of the home, ALWAYS pack your meals that you will eat at work the night before. Not only lunch but breakfast and snacks as well! We are all busy enough in the morning and if you don’t end up packing it the night before, you will likely go out to eat. From personal experience, when I go out to eat and am hungry, I rarely make good food choices.
Have freezer meals on hand: Always have at least 1 healthy freezer meal option on hand. While we can have the best-laid plans, sometimes life throws a curveball. Being a help to pull out a healthy freezer meal during these times will save you from eating the convenient fast food. When you are cooking a meal that freezes well, double it and put the extra meal in the freezer for future use. Some ideas for good freezer food are meatballs, soups, lasagna.
Get a cute meal planner! I know that I am much more likely to want to write things down and actually plan when I have cute planners to work with.
YouTubers I love that have good meal planning and prepping tips:
You Can Do This!
I hope that my meal planning and prepping tips are useful for you. Spending time to plan your menu and prepare parts of your dishes in advance will actually help you save time overall. The goals are to maximize time, eliminate food waste, and eat wholesome meals. If you need additional help planning your meals, understanding what to eat and how much of each food group, check out our Virtual Fit Club. All of our members get access to 100’s of recipes including done-for-you meal plans, prep tips, and shopping lists. For more information, click below.
If you have your own meal planning and prepping tip, I would love to hear them! Please share your tips for how you set your menu, grocery shop, or prep your meals. I am all ears and eager to learn and implement your successes.
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