1. Have a System
Whether it’s an app, notebook, or dry erase board on the fridge you will need a place for your meal planning. Keeping all of your notes, ideas, and information in one central location will help you stay organized. One of the added benefits of learning how to meal plan is learning to appreciate the importance of organization more than ever before.
2. Inspiration in Moderation
The ideas may not always come to you in one sitting. It’s easy to plan a week or two, but come the third your creative juices may run out.
There are many random food generators that can offer you customized ideas, and websites to store recipes you want to try later on.
But be careful not to use them too often. They’re extremely helpful but relying on them only teaches you how to cook healthy food, but it might not teach you about healthy eating.
3. Learn as You Go
Speaking of learning about healthy eating, pay attention to the recipes. Are there any foods they caution against, suggest as a substitute, or call ‘super food’?
Is it heavy on different vitamins to balance your diet? Have lots of iron and protein for energy?
And what’s the deal with kale and chia seeds anyway?! Knowing these things will also be useful if your doctor says you’re not getting enough of a certain nutrient.
They may suggest eating something your diet doesn’t allow. If you’re sick you might need to adjust your eating habits. Learning more about the food you’re eating as you learn how to meal plan will help you find proper alternatives when you’re low on options.
4. Save the Date!
When working on your monthly meal planner it’s important to keep track of times when you aren’t the head chef.
Have your calendar nearby so you don’t ‘double book’ (so to speak) with company get togethers, birthdays, and other social events.
There’s also a chance the host won’t have food that fits your diet so ask ahead of time. If they won’t you’ll need to keep that day in your monthly meal planner.
Make something that’s easy to transport and less likely to make a mess. That way you can bring it with you and not have to worry about spilling in the car.
5. Mind the Squiggles
That probably sounds silly but it’s actually very important. Storage containers are an essential tool for a monthly meal planner, but not all containers are alike.
That’s why there’s a labeling system used to let you know when something isn’t safe to use. Some will melt in the microwave, some can take the heat.
Some are dishwasher safe, some need a good ole’ fashioned soak. These are two of many labels. The best-case scenario is that you damage the container.
The worst-case scenario is an injury resulting from misuse. You will find these labels on the bottom, and they look fairly straightforward but can vary by brand. If you aren’t sure then double check on the manufacturer’s site before using.
6. The Three Rs
If you do damage your container see if it’s recyclable or not. Contact with food can damage things that are otherwise recyclable like cardboard boxes.
And believe it or not, not all food waste is actually, well, waste. Used coffee grounds help balance the pH level of a composter, and best of all it helps the smell too.
Leftover lemon peels safely clean many different surfaces.
7. Start the Day Right
Many of us are in a rush in the morning. We might not have time to enjoy a sit down meal. This isn’t an excuse to skimp or even worse, skip breakfast! You’ve probably heard that it’s the most important meal of the day, and that’s scientifically proven.
But it does so much more than give you energy for the day. Skipping breakfast might make a vending machine look appealing instead of appalling.
It also tells your metabolism to get going so you’ll burn more calories throughout the day. Plan ahead for days like this by making something small that’s still highly nutritious.
8. Heed Your Hunger
Never look at your monthly meal planner when you’re hungry. Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry either. Your brain will tell you to take the hunger you feel into consideration.
This means you’ll end up planning for more than you need, spending more than you need, and making more than you need. That’s literally the opposite of how to meal plan.
Brew some tea or make a snack to get something in your stomach first.
9. All the Rage This Season
When shopping for produce be mindful of what’s currently in season. Not only is it usually cheaper, but it has also naturally ripened recently. Natural ripening makes food more flavorful and higher in nutrients.
Fresh produce from the local farm uses fewer pesticides. Imported produce is more likely to be exposed to chemicals. A food’s nutritional value isn’t only found in the ingredients or nutrition facts.
Where it came from and how it was grown can have a huge impact on price and quality. Check out our Ultimate Guide on How To Meal Plan.
10. Don’t Lose Confidence
This is arguably the most important hack of all. When looking online for recipes or bloggers you may come across sites that are excessively critical of meal planning.
It’s fine for people to have an opinion, but others will go out of their way to discourage you or even judge you. Ignoring the naysayers is much easier said than done, so instead keep this in mind- only you can determine what’s best for you.
The power to lead a healthier lifestyle is in your hands, don’t let anyone take it away from you!