Learning how to effectively plan meals is important. It is one of the most useful tools for those that want to start a new diet, lose weight, and save money on grocery costs. When you have a meal plan you know what kinds of food you should eat at meals and snack times and what you should avoid. Meal planning is also beneficial for the whole family, as it helps your children eat healthier. Here are ten tips that you can use to meal plan better. The tips apply to anyone from meal planning beginners to experts. All of the tips will help you learn how to most effectively plan meals that are tasty, cheap, and healthy.
1. Start small
Planning meals for all seven days of the week is for experts only (and it is usually impossible for them too). If you are new to meal planning, start small. Learn how to plan by starting with three or four planned meals each week. Eat leftovers of these on the other days and you will greatly reduce the amount of food that you waste.
2. Stock up on the basics
One of the biggest bummers of cooking is to find that you are missing one basic yet essential ingredient. Nip this problem in the bud by stocking up on the basics as well as a few of your favorites. On nights that you don’t feel like cooking, you can use these to whip up something quick and appetizing. Also focus on buying foods that pair well together so that you can make more than one meal with the same ingredients.
3. Fill the pantry
Meal planning is made much easier when you have a variety of pantry staples on hand. Pasta, canned tuna, and canned tomatoes are all great pantry items. They can be easily combined together for a quick meal on a night you don’t feel like whipping up something from scratch.
4. Use theme nights at least once a week
Theme nights make meal planning easy. Simply dedicate one night a week to a different themed dinner. Taco night, breakfast for dinner, stir-fry night, and pizza night are all good choices. You don’t have to invite your friends to have a theme night. Cook for your parents, husband and children, or even for yourself only.
5. Marinate ahead of time
Most quick-cooking meats like chicken breast and flank steak taste great when they are marinated. To save time, marinate these meats ahead of time. When it is mealtime, all you will have to do is drain and cook. It’s that simple. Make your own marinades instead of buying them. This way, you will know that your marinade is healthy, unless you add lots of salt to it.
6. Cook on the weekends
One of the best tips for learning how to effectively meal plan is to use the weekends as cooking and preparation days. Many people use these days to cook and prepare meals for the coming week. As long as you use foods that reheat well, doing this will save you a lot of time and make fixing dinners far easier.
7. Use the freezer
An expert meal planning tip is to match extras of each meal you cook and then save these extras in the freezer. Packaging them in individual portions makes defrosting and reheating much easier. Most of these meals can be saved in the freezer for quite a while time and are perfect for weeks when you don’t have time to spend slaving away in the kitchen.
8. Prep components
Prepping meals has its pros and cons. Prepping individual components, however, is almost all pros. Prepare a few different vegetables, proteins, and grains during the weekend. You can then mix and match these individual components for varied and delicious meals during the week.
9. Stick with a base shopping list
Rather than change your shopping list every week, why not create a base shopping list? Your base shopping list contains those items that you know you need and use week after week. Having these on your list will make runs to the store much easier.
10. Have fun
Cooking and preparing meals doesn’t have to feel like work. You should strive to make it as fun as possible. Trying out new recipes, inviting friends over for dinner, playing music while you cook, or having the kids help out are all ways to make kitchen time a little less daunting.
Learning how to prepare meals is not difficult. These ten tips will all help you get a gist for planning tasty and affordable meals. There is no reason why anyone can’t make great meals with these straightforward meal planning tips. What are your secrets of successful meal planning?