Meal planning for a week was not my preference at all as I was addictive to cooking food from scratch. It was not an obsession but something I preferred out of dedication in serving my family. The twist happened when I barely found time for myself, confused in my roles as a mother and a wife and my desire to serve them on time. Even though I wished to prepare food on time, sometimes it delayed, and sometimes I felt the weird feeling of spending surplus time in the kitchen rather quality time with family. It was then I felt the urge to check out meal planning ideas for a week, and the ways to practice them.
All my desire in life is to be faithful to the responsibilities God has given me. So, preparing healthy meals and setting it on the table on time is essential for building my family on the pillars of love. If you are like me, trying to save time, money, and energy, check these meal planning ideas.
What is meal planning?
In simple terms, meal planning is the act of planning the meals you are going to have in a specific period. It is based on your preference, no of persons, ingredients available, health plans, etc. So, you can plan it for a week, month, or more.
Meal planning and preparation might be a new idea for many of those who do cooking from scratch. But trust me, this is incredibly creative and saves a lot of time.
All you have to these three things.
Select the recipes.
Shop the ingredients.
Prepare the ingredients.
Importance of Healthy Meal Planning
Extensive cooking was feasible when women were homemakers, and they could spend time in the kitchen preparing foods or snacks for the family members. But now a majority of women are employed and has to manage both home and work. So, meal planning could be a lifesaver for those who juggle between workplace and home.
Advantages of Healthy Meal Planning
Healthy weekly meal plan
When you plan ahead you are getting enough time to prepare the best for the family. This might sound tedious at first but through practice, you will master the technique. Why end up troubled by the last minute rush in the kitchen sorting veggies, peeling, grating, and take more time in the preparation process when you have the best alternative :).
Besides, prior meal planning helps you to incorporate more macronutrients (Carbohydrates, protein, and fats) and micronutrients (Vitamins and minerals) into your diet. You are not only enjoying a well-balanced food in this way but increasing the possibility of having varieties in your weekly menu with proper planning.
Smart grocery shopping
Grocery shopping will be extremely stressfree when you already know the things you need to buy. Meal planning helps you have an idea of the ingredients that are already available in the fridge/pantry and helps you to be more focused.
Secondly, it takes away your eyes from the packaged foods which may not be a healthy choice for your family and saves money from buying items which are not needed.
Spend quality time with family
The most precious and awaited time of my day is the time I spend with my family. That is the time when we get together, play, share, and have fun together and be enriched in mind.
Even though I wish to enjoy the meal times, it is quite busy as I have a toddler who loves to run around when we have our meals and its usually messy. So meal planning helps me to save time as well as energy, and spend quality time with my family.
If you are still with me, I think you agree with the idea of meal planning and you are waiting to hear more!
Ok, let’s do it.:)
How to make a healthy meal plan?
Select the recipes
Here we are going to choose three meals a day from Monday to Friday and we have to select the recipes. And we are going to give more importance to the breakfast menu as it is the most important meal of the day.
Expert dieticians suggest that a healthy breakfast is a combo of carbohydrate and protein. The carbs will give you the energy, and protein makes you feel full until the next meal. In addition, you can add vitamins and minerals to this menu with some fruits or added veggies.
Before selecting the recipes, find out the preferences of family members, health concerns, and the schedule of each person for that week.
To make things easier, let’s write it down.
So, write it down on the menu planner and for ease, stick it on your fridge/pantry door for reference. If you liked the above menu planner, feel free to grab your copy from the resource library.
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Now, we got more clarity about the food to be prepared, the approximate time taken for each meal preparation, and the preparatory steps that could be done beforehand.
- Have a balanced menu plan to save time.
- Minimize waste in cooking.
- Plan for leftover food to make something creative or to be used as a meal itself.
Shop the ingredients
Once you got the recipes ready, its time to analyze. Check what is already available in the pantry and check for sales or seasonal produce to minimize the expense. It is also helpful to group the items before you go to the store as it would help in saving time.
Prepare the ingredients
In meal planning, preparing the ingredients is the most crucial part and the time-consuming. But one day’s hectic work would reward you later. This involves washing, peeling, cutting, chopping, grinding, grating, etc.
First, separate the vegetables that are only suitable to be used at the time of cooking. Now, we have the vegetables that could be cut ahead of time and refrigerated.
Storage ideas for vegetables and fruits
As soon as you are back from grocery shopping, the most important task is to store the fruits and vegetables which may degrade soon. If we take some extra efforts we can reduce food wastage and save it for later use.
So, let’s check some ideal fruit and vegetable storage ideas.
Preparing vegetables in advance: Healthy Meal Planning made easy
The best part of prepping veggies ahead is that it saves time, less wastage and makes meal time much quicker with way less clean up. And we love it!
Before we start, be sure to have the right tools.
- Cutting board
- A sharp knife
- Glass meal prep containers (Preferred over plastic containers) / Resealable plastic bags
Root vegetables are potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots etc.
Prepping Root Vegetables:
Potatoes: The best way to keep the prepped potatoes is to submerge them in cold water and if keeping potatoes more than an hour, refrigerate it.
Garlic: Can be peeled and whole cloves stored in a resealable plastic bag until ready to use.
Carrots: Can be stored in the fridge with or without blanching.
Blanching is the method in which the vegetables are immersed in the boiling water for around 2 minutes and immediately rinsed with ice cold water. Blanching helps in the extended storage process.
If blanching is not your preferred method, you can simply wrap the peeled and cut carrots in a dampened paper towel and keep inside an airtight container or plastic bag.
Most of the root vegetables can simply be placed in meal prep containers, sealed and stored in the refrigerator. As root vegetables lose moisture easily, place a slightly damp paper towel at the bottom of the container.
Prepping Leafy Vegetables:
kale, spinach, Lettuce, Chinese cabbage
The best method is placing the greens out in a single layer on a few sheets of paper towel or a clean towel. Gently roll up the towel with the green inside and place inside a plastic bag.
Cauliflower, Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Broccoli
These vegetables retain moisture for a longer period and can be washed, cut, and stored in meal prep containers.
Note: Broccoli should not be placed in a closed container but should be placed wrapped in a paper towel in an open container.
Also, vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and summer squash are best to be used when needed.
Tips for healthy meal planning
When you are starting out with meal prep, pick one or two meals and start from there.
Be ready with your recipes.
Prepare the veggies on the weekend.
Avoid freezing the wrong type of meals.
Try not to cook too many days ahead.
My experience on meal planning
I loved the way things worked out and the way meal planning benefited me to increase my efficiency. My cooking time reduced from 45 minutes to 15-20 minutes and I didn’t waste time staring at my fridge on planning meals.
Also, we used each days left over food as an addition to the next day’s menu or changed one meal to include the previous day’s leftover food.
There was less vegetable waste and I could keep the kitchen tidy with little effort.
With proper storage, the leafy vegetables was fresh more than a week.
I could spend more time with my family.
I hope you enjoyed this post! Meal planning has brought such a huge difference in my family life. Now, I can spend enough time with my baby, spend quality time with my husband, serve healthy and tasty foods on time.
“She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.” (Proverbs 31:17)
May God bless us to be faithful to do His will.