Meal planning may be one of the most useful but dreaded tools when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. With so many moving parts, nailing down a plan that we can stick to and that the entire family supports can seem quite complicated. But, it doesn’t have to be.
If you have 5 minutes each week, you can create a healthy, practical meal plan! Today I want to show you how to create a 5-minute meal plan to save your sanity and feed your family well!
A goal without a plan is just a wish. ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A meal plan is actually just that- a plan or written record of what we will eat. Pretty simple. What makes it complicated and overwhelming is creating one that actually works while considering food preferences of multiple people and diverse, hectic schedules. For many, making it ‘healthy’ and balanced just makes it all the more overwhelming.
That is why so many turn to diet and health books- tools that will do the planning for them. It tells them what to eat so that they don’t have to think about it.
These ‘static’ meal plans from books and programs often work for a period of time, but they don’t teach us how to create a meal plan that works for our family every week. Sometimes we need someone to do it for us. But eventually, most of us won’t be able to follow it to a tee and it will only add more stress trying to keep up. This feeds that diet mentally- never doing it well enough, conforming to a structured plan, shaming ourselves…
YOU can create a meal plan every week that actually works for your family in 5 minutes flat… and is healthy! In fact, as I write about in this article, Easy Meal Plan Strategies for the Busy Family, the simple act of meal planning may actually make you and your family healthier! It can…
- Reduce your intake of sodium
- Increase your consumption of fruits and veggies
- Help you better manage your body weight
But your 5-minute meal plan may do even more than that- like help you take more control of your food budget! Would you believe that the average family of 4 wastes $1500 of food per year! Just tossed in the trash! YIKES!!
Vacation, anyone?!! College fund?! Meal planning could be your money-saving solution!
Do you still feel a little overwhelmed by the thought of meal planning? Remember that,
Done is better than perfect. –Sheryl Sandberg
Let’s get started…
5-Minute Healthy Meal Plan Blueprint
Minute 1: Evaluate Your Week
Pull out your calendar out and view the events each day for the next week. Ask yourself these questions:
- What evening events might interfere with meal prep, cooking and family dinners?
- Are we going to eat out any night and if so, which one(s)?
- Do I need to plan for guests?
- Will any family members be absent from dinner this week?
- What nights are we too busy to cook? Do I want to re-heat a meal on this night?
- Are we going out of town?
- Will my kids or spouse be helping with meal prep any day this week?
Once you evaluated assessed your personal and family events and considered how they will affect the meal plan this week, you are ready to move to the next step…
Minute 2: Inventory Your Pantry & Fridge
- What perishable foods do you want to use up to avoid food waste?
- What foods do you have in excess that you want to incorporate into a meal?
- Can you create any meals from the ingredients you already have?
- Are there any staples that are running low or out?
Minute 3 & 4: Choose Recipes for the Week & Record
Think about meals and recipes that follow (or can be adapted to follow) the plate method concept:
- ¼ plate high quality protein
- ¼ plate complex carbs (beans, whole grains, potatoes, sweet potatoes)
- ½ plate non-starchy veggies
Want to plan grilled cheese night? Add a bowl of vegetable soup.
Want to plan spaghetti? Toss in some spinach or broccoli, add a salad, make zucchini noodles or use spaghetti squash.
Want to make tacos? Make taco salads to beef up the veggies you are eating.
Any meal can be tweaked to follow the Plate Method concept! Choose meals your family enjoys. Remember that as the parent, you offer the healthy meal and your family decides what parts they will eat and how much. But, by tweaking some of your family favorites (like these!!), you are more likely to get some ‘buy-in’ from your kids AND you are making it easier on yourself by choosing meals you already know how to make!
Here is a blueprint you can follow as an example:
1 slow cooker meal
1 fish/seafood recipe
1 meatless meal
1 dinner out
1 leftovers night
1 new recipe
**Of course, you decide! If you want 2 or 3 leftovers nights, then do it! No one is stopping you! Choose the format that fits your family and your schedule!
Minute 5: Post A Copy of Meal Plan in the Kitchen
Ensure that everyone knows what is on the menu by posting the meal plan in a visible spot. Post on a bulletin board, chalkboard or on the refrigerator. When someone asks, “What’s for dinner?” direct them to the written meal plan. Get everyone on board with this planning method by referencing it and directing their attention to it. If they have a request for a different meal, ask them to write it below the plan and you can consider it for next week!
Your meal plan is set and ready-to-go! Remember to make your meal plan flexible enough for unexpected events. Life happens and that’s okay! Having a “plan B” is helpful so that when you can’t stick to your initial plan, you can keep the stress to a minimum.
Success doesn’t just happen. It is planned for. — Anonymous