By Jodi Holland, RD
What’s for supper?
What’s for supper? Does this question evoke feelings of stress? If you’re like most people, your decision is made about an hour before you start cooking. Planning your supper meals in advance, even just starting with a few days out of the week, is a sure way to:
- save you from stress,
- save you time and money, and
- help you meet your wellness goals with better food choices.
Set aside sometime this week to make next week’s meal plan. Keep your weekly menus to re-use and for quick meal planning.
5 Tips for Easy Meal Planning
- What do I already have?
Check to see what’s in the cupboard, fridge and freezer. Build your meals around these foods first. Take inventory of what needs to be replaced.
- What’s on sale?
Check your grocery store flyer for specials.
Use our Meal Planner to keep track of what you have and what’s on sale.
- Create a healthy meal plan.
Each meal should include Vegetables or Fruit, a Protein and a Wholegrain or starchy vegetable. Add water or a calcium-enriched beverage on the side.
A. Start by creating a 3 day menu for next week and consider:
- your activities for next week,
- how much time you have to cook,
- what nights you need to depend on leftovers, and
- plans to eat out.
B. I like to plan my meals based on the protein source in order to have variety and to help with budgeting as this can be one of the most expensive items in your cart. Use our Meal Idea Master List to identify your protein sources and to write out your accompanying meal ideas.
Challenge yourself to include 1-2 fish and vegetarian meals each week, including
Legumes (dried peas, beans or lentils)
Nuts or Seeds
C. Complete your meal by adding Vegetables and a Wholegrain or starchy vegetable. Double the vegetables to fill half your plate, or add a side salad.
D. Involve your family in meal planning. Make your meals fun! Set theme nights, like the following examples, to keep it interesting:
Ethnic cuisine, i.e. Italian or Mexican night
Breakfast foods for supper (jammies optional)
Clean out the fridge night
New recipe night (Check out Cookspiration for new ideas.)
E. Fill out your Weekly Meal Plan .
- Make your grocery list.
Use your Weekly Meal Plan to make your grocery list. Less trips to the grocery store saves you time and money.
- Consider making a Master Grocery List with the items you regularly buy, listed in the order they are found in your store. This saves time at the store and is a built-in checklist so items don’t get forgotten.
- Keep it in the kitchen and mark down items as they get used up.
- Keep your pantry stocked with the basics.
- See this pantry list for useful ingredients to have on hand.
- Make a list of a few of your favorite quick recipes and try to keep these basic cooking supplies and ingredients stocked.
- Take advantage of bulk food bins for variety.
Extra tips to save time and money:
Plan to use your Slow Cooker or Instant Pot.
Cook extra meat or beans and chop extra vegetables to use tomorrow.
Double recipes and freeze the extras.
Plan to do some food prep.
You did it! You’re ready for next week’s meals and know supper will be served before baseball or soccer, or ready for you to assemble after staying late at work. The potential decrease in drive-thru dining will help you and your family meet your wellness goals.
Plan together, cook together, eat together and enjoy your food!