Reduce Stress through Meal Planning
This blustery winter has been hard on all of us, but I’m here to encourage you to keep moving and stay focused on your health and wellness goals! The snow and ice have opened up a lot of excuses to skip our workouts and eat comfort foods. But if we stay on track with clean eating, healthy movement and getting our rest, we’ll be happier and healthier when the weather breaks.
One way I keep the family on target with clean eating is through consistent meal planning. Meal planning helps us have healthy options on hand for breakfast (no cereal allowed), the kids’ lunches and quick dinners. Not only does meal planning help ensure I have ingredients on hand for specific recipes, but it also takes the stress out of the week!
Another great reason to meal plan is to stay within the grocery budget. I know that if I don’t plan ahead, I end up making 3-5 trips to the store and spend way more money. So, to reduce stress and stay on budget, I am committed to consistently planning our meals this year.
Originally, I was hesitant to meal plan, because I thought it had to be this big, elaborate thing. But it doesn’t. Here are some tips to help you keep meal planning simple that help me stay on track:
Make a list of “go to” meals: These are meals that are easy for you to prepare because you’ve done them many times and you know your family enjoys them. If you are limited on time, these recipes should make up the majority of your meal planning.
Look at your weekly calendar of activities: I fill in all our nightly events before I decide what we will have for dinner. For example, if I know we will be home briefly before heading out to events for the rest of the night, then it is a crockpot meal day. Or, if we don’t have any evening activities, then I’ll have time to make something that takes a bit longer.
Decide if you want to have theme nights: Taco Tuesdays, Homemade Pizza Fridays and Meatless Mondays take a lot of the guess work out of meal planning. For example, Taco Tuesday takes the stress and time out of the decision—and you can create a variety of tacos just by switching up your protein.
Plan your meals around your calendar. Use a mixture of your “go to” meals, your theme night meals and any new or time-consuming recipes you want to try.
Make your grocery list: And do this carefully! Check your pantry and fridge to make sure you have the ingredients you need. I am notorious for planning a meal like tacos and then not having any chili powder on hand to make the seasoning!
Go to the grocery store before the week begins.
Meal prep as much as you can: Meal prep means to do things in advance to make meal preparation easier, like chopping vegetables or cooking meat. Set aside 1-2 hours to chop, portion, mix and cook ingredients at a time that is convenient for you. Sometimes our weekends are jam packed, so for me, weekends don’t always work. Sometimes I’ll do just a little bit on a weeknight when I have a little more time at home. Whatever works for you is what will be best.
So, I encourage you to try meal planning next week. Jot down some ideas for each day, keep it simple and then make your grocery list.
Sample Meal Plan
Here is what our meal plan looked like last week:
Breakfast: Sausage and eggs, smoothies
Lunch: Kids - Ham and cheese lettuce wraps (we always have fruit and veggies straws or chips on hand).
Me – Salad w/ ground beef, cauliflower, vinaigrette
Dinner: Crockpot roast chicken, green beans, roast cauliflower
B: Bacon, waffles, Veggie hash
L: Kids – lettuce wraps, me – salad w/ left over roast veggies, chicken
D: Chicken tacos (w/ left over roast chicken), black beans, guacamole, rice cooked in bone broth from roast chicken (I swear this keeps my kids healthier each winter!)
B: Baked Oatmeal, smoothies
L: Kids- grilled sandwiches, me – salad
B: Baked Oatmeal, veggie hash
L: Kids – ham sandwiches or burrito bowls w/ leftovers, me – soup and salad
D: Egg roll in a bowl.
B: Egg bake, smoothies
L: Kids - Soup or lettuce wraps, me – salad
D: Leftover night!