calendar with food items on each day

4 Tips to Help with Meal Planning

“What’s for dinner?” The famous question that kids all around the world are asking around 5 pm. Wouldn't it be nice if on Monday you could answer that question and say what we are having for dinner for the entire week! Well, you can with some thought-out preparation and about 4 to 5 hours every 2 weeks.

Years ago I was teaching pre-school, running a daycare, and raising my own kids. Life was crazy busy and I was always so stressed when it got to be dinner time I wanted to pull my hair out especially on days that I did not really have in mind what I was going to make.

Meal planning isn't difficult

If only I knew then what I know now!! Life would have been so much easier. Meal planning is not as hard as it looks. Gathering food and planning out dinners in advance alleviates a lot of stress. I am all about serving healthy food so I love to try new things. Actually taking the time to look up recipes and try new things has been so fun.

My family is actually excited for upcoming meals instead of saying oh no not again. We still do tacos on Sundays because this is the one day I really don't feel like cooking and want to relax. Tacos are oh so easy and my kids actually love to help with that dinner.

Here are 4 tips that will help you meal prep your heart out!!

1. Look up new recipes

Be creative with your cooking. The web is full of great ideas. Make sure you choose dishes with protein and vegetables. Use wheat pasta vs white. Grain bread vs white bread. Lean meat, chicken and fish. Try to grow outside of your normal comfort zone and don't be afraid to try new recipes. The web has endless recipes. Find a chunk of time you can surf the web and find some great recipes.

2. How many meals do you need planned out?

Depending on how big your family is and if you're going to plan differently because like me, you have type 2 diabetes, and sometimes have to do a lower carb version of dinner for yourself, just plan it out. I usually cook dinner 5 nights a week, so in my meal plan I am going to be focusing on those night meals. Some may want to plan out lunch and breakfast as well. It really is up to you, just make a plan. Once planned out, you can commit to how long it will take once items for the meals have been bought. It takes me about 25 minutes to make 2 dinners.

I do 14 days, so I make 2 of the same meal items, I just use them differently. For instance, I use the same items to make enchilada casserole as I do to make chicken fajitas give and take a few items. Many times with these items, I will place them on top of a salad for me or just have the items mixed with cheese and not do the tortillas. It really depends on how my blood glucose looks that day.

Depending on how my glucose is, sometimes I need to lower my carb intake so I stay below 130. So I skip the carb, like the tortillas, rice and pasta in most meals. I also use my instant pot and crock pot for a few of the meals so I can go the full 14 days without having to prep or cook. Doing 14 days usually takes me a little over 4 hours but I block out 5 hours just so I know I am going to have enough time.

3. Write down your grocery list and head to the store

So now you have taken time to look up what you will need for some new recipes. You have planned out how many meals you want to make and how long it will take. Now it's time to make a grocery list. Go through each meal to see what you will need and create your list. You may even need to set aside some time to do this instead of doing it on the fly. When I rush to do this, I always forget to write down a few needed items. When I write it down, I get it all and don't have to make more than one trip to the store.

4. Cook your meals

Now that you have all your shopping done it's time to cook. Take that chunk of time you blocked out and cook. When my kids were really young, I never felt guilty by letting them make a mess with toys or letting them watch an extra Disney movie. I just enlisted them to clean up after I got done cooking.

Now that everything is cooked and put away, enjoy your meals and hopefully, your family will love the new dishes you made. I know that doing this has brought so much more organization to my life and left me with more time in the evenings to enjoy my family.

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