Being disorganized, tired, overworked and stressed means we are likely not eating as healthy as we should. So what is the solution? I came across an issue of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine years ago which offered a weekly meal plan and complete shopping list-- and as I utilized this amazing tool I was hooked! Enter: Nutritional Meal Planning. This plan does require a bit of leg work initally, but what it actually does is helps you get so organized that you have more time for the fun things in life. It also helps us to prioritize our families nutrition and build healthy habits that will lay the foundation for a healthy future.
How to Get Started:
Print off a few copies of the Meal Planning PDF. Here. (See more variation on the BODY page)
Make a list of all your usual dinners with a list of ingredients for each meal on the lower part under the "shopping checklist".
Get some NEW recipes you’ve been wanting to try and again, write them out.
Before you go grocery shopping, write out a weekly meal plan using one of the templates and create the shopping list.
Schedule who does the cooking for each meal and don’t forget to include the kids! They are very competent to help out with prep, side dishes and simple meals, you are teaching a vital life skill by including them.
Tear the shopping list to take to the store, and then post the Meal Plan on your fridge or calendar so you can see it for the week.
The beauty of this system is that you are not stuck with having to make Monday’s meal on Monday, if you don’t feel like it. It may seem rigid to plan days in advance, but there is flexibility! The plan ensures that you have all the ingredients for the meal when you are ready for it. It also ensures less food waste, because everything you buy is something you actually need.
Taking it to the Next Level:
Once you get in the swing of things, you can get really organized and make up 4 complete weekly meal plans (which just get repeated) so you don’t EVER have to think about what to make for dinner again. I'm not going to lie, I have only ever had 3 set Meal Plans completed myself, but I thought Id encourage it anyways!!
For future convenience, type the lists out, save them on your computer to print out as needed.
You can also organize the shopping list either by recipe/meal or by grocery store sections (meat/dairy/produce etc), which ever is more efficient for you.
If you want to get really ahead of the game, make double batches of freezable meals to alleviate the rush/stress of future dinners.
When planning, think about stretching resources by planning meals that can be the base of other meals (spaghetti sauce to lasagne, roast chicken to chicken soup, white rice into fried rice) that way your efforts in one meal lighten the labour for another.
Immediately after doing your weekly shop up, prep as many veggies, meat and fruit etc. for the weeks meals. Make it a family event so the work is shared. I like to do this on Sunday when everyone is home and has some free time to get their hands wet! Simple tasks like washing all the fruits and veggies at once in the sink (with a vinegar soak) can save a lot of time!
Focus on adding one small change or healthy habit at a time. I like to focus on adding good things to my diet rather than the deprivation approach of focusing on eliminating things from my diet. Ideas for positive changes: Make salad with every dinner a priority. By prepping ingredients ahead of time salads can be laid out like a salad bar, which makes it really fun for kids to get to choose. Or once per week you will try a new food, get creative! Or try to "eat a rainbow" of natural foods daily. The possibilities are endless, but when you plan them in advance you will ensure it actually happens.
Good Luck and let me know how this works out for you. Remember to not be too hard on yourself. If there is one thing I struggle with is consistency, so even I deviate from my best laid plans. I have found that since I have been co-parenting I have not been in the habit of using the plan like I did before. But I too need reminders to get myself back on the path.