I realized a long time ago that the key to successful weight loss and good nutrition begins with a plan – a menu plan. Right now you are probably saying to yourself, “Who has time to create a menu plan?” I thought the same thing which is one of the many reasons that conventional diets never worked for me. Here are 5 tips that helped me simplify the menu planning process:
- Designate Time
Every Sunday night, I gather my family together for a menu planning session. Everyone is encouraged to give some input on what they would like to eat that week which can range from dessert sushi to mashed potato sundaes. The goal is to plan out enough menus for one week. Since I have been doing this for a while, I have a database of over 40 meal plans – categorized by season – that I can choose from or I can create a new one.
- Be Frugal
When meal planning, I always take into consideration what is in season and readily available. I use fresh fruits and vegetables from our garden whenever possible. I also use some of the same ingredients for different meals. For example, I will purchase a whole chicken instead of parts which will make 2-3 meals. From the carcass, I make slow-cooker chicken stock which can be made into soups, chilies and stews. It stretches my food budget and makes menu planning easier.
- Stock The Pantry
Every three months, I do a quarterly pantry shop to replace our stock of bulk grains, beans, flours, nuts, seeds, sweeteners, spices, dried fruits and vegetables, pastas and other items with an extended shelf life. This makes weekly meal planning easier when I know what ingredients I already have.
- Reference Your Daily Schedule
Keep your schedule for the week handy when creating your menu plan so that you can incorporate easy meals into your menu with little prep-time on busy days. Utilize a slow cooker, pressure cooker or make-ahead recipes that can go from refrigerator to oven in minutes.
- Use a Template
I created this template that includes Breakfast, Morning Snack, Lunch, Afternoon Snack, Dinner and Dessert. For each day, I simply fill in the blanks. This helps me calculate Weight Watchers points ahead of time.