Simplify Meal Planning – Free Templates
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Ready to build a rockin’ meal plan to help simplify your hectic week?
With these free, reusable meal planning templates, you can print them out, use them week-in, and week-out and help save yourself tons of stress, time and money.
Meal planning is a great tool to keep you focused on your nutrition too. Whether you’re planning meals to lose a few pounds, using them to save time or just to get your life organized, check out these 8 meal planning tips before you get started.
1. CHUNK THE JUNK
If you’re focusing on making healthier choices, get rid of any junk or tempting foods that can derail you. If you keep that box of Honey Nut Cheerios around, when you’re exhausted and looking for a fast meal, you may reach for that cereal because its habit and it’s quick and easy. Those sweets will taunt you, so chunk ’em.
You want to eliminate the need to use your willpower at home. Put simply, if there isn’t junk around, you won’t eat it! While you’re clearing out your pantry, jot down the items you do have on hand to use for next week’s meals.
2. LOOK AHEAD
Look at the week ahead. What’s on your schedule? When do you have sports practice, client meetings, school plays, etc.?
Looking at your calendar will help you decide exactly what meals are practical for your family’s engagements. If you have something scheduled in the evening and you only have a short window to eat after work before your event, choose a crockpot meal that’s ready when you get home, or plan for a fast and easy meal option, no-cook meal or leftovers. Save those recipes that take a little longer to cook for a night you aren’t as busy and can spend more time in the kitchen.
3. FIND & SAVE RECIPES
Having a list of go-to meals is one of the easiest ways to expedite the meal planning process. You can search for recipes and save them to boards on Pinterest or store the URL links in a Google Doc. When searching for recipes, check the ingredients and the time to prep and cook. You want recipes that are simple and align with your health and nutrition goals. Now is a great time to cross-reference the items you already have on hand and find recipes with ingredients you already have. (Cha-ching… savings!)
4. HUNGER-BUSTER SNACK PACKS
You may find yourself in a situation where you find yourself short on time, hangry (you know, so hungry you get angry), or just in need of a quick fix. When you do, you need to have “hunger buster” snack packs on hand. These are simple, easily accessible and perfectly portioned. All you need are snack or sandwich size Ziploc bags and your favorite healthy snacks – like almonds or other nuts, fresh chopped fruit, carrots and celery with a nut butter or hummus, to name a few options. Preparing these “grab-and-go” snacks right when you get home from the grocery store will help prevent you from seeking out unhealthy fast or convenient snacks.
5. CREATE YOUR MEAL PLAN
Meal planning can seem overwhelming; here are a few pointers to keep it simple!
- Meal planning is kind of like a puzzle so select recipes with overlapping ingredients. For example, cook 2 pounds of ground beef at once, but split it for two meals like when you make spaghetti squash with meat sauce and then stuffed bell peppers later in the week.
- Write out your plan and make it visible. Print out the meal-planning template and hang it on the fridge or write it on a chalkboard in your kitchen. This sets the family’s expectations and adds an element of accountability.
- If time permits, cook a double batch and freeze in individual portions for a fast meal. This way, you cook once but get to eat prepared and healthier foods all week long. I love doing this with egg & veggie muffins. Zap 30 seconds to a minute in the morning and voila! A healthy, hot meal ON THE GO!
- I personally like to have 2 breakfast options, which alternate every other day. I cook simple dinners and then eat leftovers for lunches. Alternatively, you can batch cook all of your meals in one day.
Bottom line: do what works for you.
After you have your plan, make a grocery list and hit the store to shop for fresh, whole foods that will fuel your body and begin changing your energy, your shape, and confidence!
If you’re focused on a healthy meal plan, at this point, your grocery list and meal plan should have lots of lean meats, eggs, fresh veggies, and fruits, with some nuts and seeds primarily. When you shop, your trip should mainly take place around the perimeter of the store. If you do have a few packaged items on your list, make product selections based on the ingredient list rather than the nutritional label alone. Avoid too many added chemicals, preservatives and sugars. (You’d be shocked that foods that aren’t sweet include sugar, like ketchup and organic chicken broth!) Read every label.
When you shop at the store, remember to never shop on an empty stomach because you’re more susceptible to impulse buys. Also, make sure you stick to your list. If it’s not on your list, DON’T BUY IT.
Want to learn about my favorite grocery shopping hack?
I actually prefer to grocery shop online while I meal plan. That way, I can skip the crowds, stick to my list and budget, and get more time back in my day. I love using Walmart’s Pickup program because it’s so easy.
- Shop & pay online
- Reserve a time to pick up your groceries
- Drive to the store at your reserved time and have your groceries delivered directly to your trunk.
Seriously, friend, that’s what I call sensible shopping! Try it for yourself and save $10.
7. THE PREP SCHEDULE
Before you hit the grocery store, write down everything you have to prepare for the day you need to prepare it. I’ve given you a blank prep list so you can visually see how much work your meal plan will take. Use this as a working to-do list. (This is my secret sauce to meal planning!)
After you get home from the grocery store, don’t just put the food away and call it a day. I find that I’m more successful and prepared when I spend a short amount of time right after the trip to the store to wash and chop fruits and veggies, start marinating meats, make those hunger buster snack packs and even partially or fully cook some meals I have planned. I’d rather trade an hour or two in the kitchen on one day than an hour each day. It’s actually a HUGE time saver.
Now it’s your turn!
Ready to simplify meal planning? Sign up, download, print and go! Just remember — don’t over-complicate it. Carve out some time and reuse these templates every week. Trust me it’s worth it.
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