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Busy moms find meal planning to be an important part of keeping on track and managing their home. It doesn’t matter whether you are a stay at home mom, a work from home mom, or you work away from home. The reason this seems to be the common denominator is because meal planning is key to a working routine. If you are new to meal planning, there are a few things to know before implementing it into your routine for you or you and your family. A meal plan can really help when dinner time is getting close and everyone is getting hangry. Having a plan can lower your stress level when you know what you are having and even have some of the prep out of the way or even dinner ready before you need it. I have done various forms of meal planning over the years, so I will try to give you some ideas over the next few posts to hopefully lower your stress level surrounding meals, but also encourage you to find a system that works for you and your family.
Start With a Master Food List
The first place to start with meal planning is with a master food list. You can print these out online, by season, or you can make your own list. Ideally what you are doing is narrowing down the foods you like, the foods you do not like, the ones you are allergic to, and the ones you have never tried. This master list will help you narrow down your recipes and get foods for your meal planning that work for you personally. You can also decide how they can be used.
Consider Your Goal
Make sure you consider your goals with your meal planning. For example, you may be looking for a way to reduce your stress during the week. Meal planning may offer you more downtime and more time to enjoy being with your family. Do you want to just plan dinner or will you be planning all three meals? If you are new to meal planning, I suggest choosing whichever meal will be the easiest to execute first. If that is breakfast, then that is it. Plan your breakfasts for the week and when you have that down, start with another meal. Trying to do too much at once can lead to failure. Overall, you should consider long-term, short-term, and overall goals before you start meal planning.
Consider Your Containers
One thing many people do not consider about meal planning are the containers they will be using. This can make a big difference in how you plan out your meals. Most people do use containers that have several slots for protein, vegetables, fruits, and sauces. If you will primarily be doing full meals, then these are ideal. You may also want to bento boxes, soup containers, or other options. Consider what types of meals you want to have and then make sure you have the containers for them. If you are planning a meal for the whole family to sit down to enjoy, then you likely won’t need divided containers unless you plan to use the leftovers for another meal. There are plenty to choose from online and in stores.
Considering your timeframe is something that goes along with meal planning basics. You need to make sure that you are planning for a set amount of days. Most people do weekly meal planning while larger families may do planning for the whole month. The timeframe along with the food lists and goals can greatly affect your budget, so considering a timeframe is important. You will need to keep in mind how much you plan to spend to decide if you need to do weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly planning and shopping. Some of my clients will plan for most of the week, but shop twice to be able to pick up fresh produce mid-week. The key is find what works for you.
These basic principles of meal planning can help you get started. Remember, there is no set defined way of meal planning. The idea is to plan the meals you want plus make sure they work for you and your lifestyle. It may take a little time to get things on a solid track, but once they are you will find meal planning to be an easier route on many levels.
Do you plan your meals ahead of time?