Health, Nutrition

A Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning: Tips for Success

It’s 6PM. You’ve just gotten home from work after a hectic day, and you’re hungry. The last thing you feel like doing is cooking, and you’re not even sure you’ve got enough ingredients on-hand to create a meal from scratch. You resign to calling your go-to takeout restaurant instead of cooking at home for yet another night, willing yourself to eat better tomorrow.
Sound familiar? If you’re tired of wasting your money on eating out, and if you’re serious about preparing more nutritious meals in the comfort of your own kitchen, it’s time to get started with meal planning.

Understanding Meal Planning and Its Benefits

Meal planning refers to a method of recipe organization that allows you to plan the majority of all of your meals for the week in advance, thus saving you from the “guess work” of trying to figure out meals on-the-fly. As a result of successful meal planning, you can not only eat healthier, but can potentially save hundreds of dollars per month on wasteful food spending.
The truth is that everybody has time to enjoy nutritious, delicious, home-made meals on a daily basis. The key is knowing how to plan ahead and prepare.

How to Get Started With Meal Planning

By setting aside just a couple hours per week to plan your meals and grocery shopping accordingly, you can begin enjoying the countless benefits of meal planning for yourself.

Explore New Recipes Weekly

Begin by researching recipes! Thanks to the Internet, there are literally millions of free recipes at your disposal, and recipe websites make it easier than ever to filter through meal options based on ingredients. You can even search based on specific diets or dietary restrictions. For example, if you’re vegan or gluten-free, a quick Google search for “gluten-free recipes” or “vegan recipes” will yield thousands of great results.
You can also search for recipes based on a variety of factors, such as difficulty or time required. It’s a good idea to start with a dozen recipes or so that you can cycle through each week. From there, set aside a day each week to find new recipes that you can add to your list. This is a great way to keep things fresh so you don’t get bored of your meals.

Create a Simple Space to Store Recipes

You’ll also want to create a space to store the recipes you find so you can easily refer to them when needed. For online recipes, a bookmark folder in your browser is a great depository for recipes. You can even create subfolders for different types of meals such as lunches, dinners, side dishes, etc.
If you prefer to stick to paper recipes, you can always print out any recipes you find online, and keep them organized in a basic three-ring binder that you keep in your kitchen.

Invite Input From Family/Roommates

Of course, if you’re meal planning for more than just yourself, you may also want to consider inviting input from others in your household, such as family members or roommates. You could even task other members of your household with picking out or voting on a new recipe to try each week. This also gives them a good opportunity to voice their opinions on what should be placed on the menu for the following week.

Craft Your Meal Calendar

Once you’ve picked out some recipes for the week, it’s a matter of deciding which meals will be served on which days. While figuring this out, you should keep your daily schedule for the week in mind so you can plan accordingly. For example, if you have an extremely busy day on Wednesday, this would be a good day to give one of those quick “15-minute” meals a try or perhaps even putting a slow-cooker recipe to the test. On the other hand, you can reserve days when you have less on your plate for more complex recipes that will take up more of your time.

Make a Shopping List

Finally, it’s time to create your shopping list, and set aside a day to handle all your grocery shopping for the upcoming week. In crafting your shopping list, be sure to skim through your ingredients list on all the recipes you’ll be using for the week, and make sure you have these already on-hand or added to your list. If you’re on a budget, you may also want to consider shopping around for deals or special coupons to clip before your shopping trip. This can help you to maximize your grocery budget and savings.

Meal Plans Served Up Just For You

Make meal planning simple by joining iFit® Coach. iFit® Coach is a fitness plan made just for you. Tell your iFit® Coach what you’ve eaten, and based on your caloric intake and daily activity, a personalized meal plan is automatically created for you to achieve your fitness goals—with easy-to-follow recipes and video tutorials from our nutrition experts.
Based on your fitness levels and goals, iFit® Coach recommends specific workouts and delicious recipes to set you on the right course. It’s an entire fitness program that’s completely customized to you and your needs. Receive calorie targets for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. You’ll get customized workouts, individualized calorie targets, and daily activity and sleep tips, all built by our team of expert trainers and dietitians.

Don’t Forget About Leftovers

Finally, when it comes to planning your meals for the week, don’t hesitate to throw a “leftover day” in at some point during the middle of the week. Just be sure to plan accordingly so you can make a little extra of one dish earlier in the week. Having a day reserved for leftovers is a great way to enjoy a break from cooking without spending the money on eating out or ordering delivery.
In addition to leftovers, you can also use meal prepping as a great way to save time, and cut back on cooking throughout the week. For example, if you have more than one recipe that will be using chicken breasts during the week, you might consider cooking up a large batch of chicken at the beginning of the week, and using it in different recipes as needed. This same concept of prepping ahead can also work with veggies and many other side dishes. Many people who meal plan will take an hour or two after their grocery trip to cut up vegetables, cook chicken, and prepare other simple foods before their week begins to save a lot of time and hassle throughout the days ahead.
As you can see, there’s a lot to keep in mind when it comes to meal planning. For the first week or two, you may feel a little flustered by the experience and may even consider reverting back to your old ways! However, it’s important to stick with it. After a few weeks, meal planning will begin to feel like second-nature, and will eventually become part of your routine. As you spend less money on eating out, you’ll also find that you’re saving a great deal of money each month. You might even find that you’ve lost a bit of weight or may feel more energized!
Overall, meal planning is something that every household can benefit from. So what are you waiting for? Give meal planning a try for yourself in the coming week, and see what a positive impact it can have on your life!