Meal Planning: Getting Started & Staying Motivated

So you wanna start a meal plaaannn... (You read that to the tune of "Do you wanna build a snowman?" from Frozen, right? Surely it wasn't just me) I think it's been made pretty clear that we all want to get better at meal planning. General consensus says that there are two big obstacles when it comes to getting started: HOW to begin and how to stay motivated to keep it up. In this post, we'll tackle both.

The Case for Meal Planning: the WHY

  • Saves Money: utilizing ingredients for multiple meals will cut down on your grocery list. Using grilled chicken with dinner? Leftovers make a bomb grilled chicken salad! Or maybe an avocado-chicken salad for sandwiches. Or even a chicken BLT. I love using my dinner leftovers for the next day's lunch.
  • Saves Time: okay, this one might take some practice, but once you get your meal planning down, it takes all the guess work out of "what's for dinner?!". Each day is already mapped out for you. You're welcome.
  • Reduces Waste: back to re-using ingredients. When you're thoughtful and intentional about what you're buying and using, it's WAY less likely that you'll waste ingredients. Less waste equates to saving money, so there's another win!
  • Helps You Eat Healthier: You've already taken the time to sit down, plan, and shop for your healthy menu. Now, it's just time to execute.
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Getting Started

  • Set out a specific day and time each week to meal plan: Think of this like your weekly "meeting" with yourself. Whether it's Friday night in front of the TV, Sunday morning over coffee, or midweek during nap time, commit to a time and stick with it. Listen #bossmom, bosses don't cancel!!!
  • Take into account weekly schedules: bust out that family calendar. Look at who has what and when. Some nights will bode well with a quick, simple meal (kiddos have activities, you or hubby is working late, in-laws are visiting, etc), whereas other nights will be easier to cook (everyone is home early, no activities planned). Some weeks, you might bust out the crock pot more than you'd like to admit and that's OKAY! Just make a plan and try to stick to it.
  • Check out grocery store sales: when I was younger, I thought coupons were for "poor people". Now, I basically treat coupons like they're printed on solid gold paper. Why wouldn't you want essentially FREE money?! If you can incorporate store sales or manufacturers coupons into your weekly plan, you're basically a genius.
  • Use “theme nights” to maintain variety, while still providing structure (soup and salad night, burger night, my personal fav: taco Tuesday, etc). I actually use somewhat of a pattern so that I’m not starting over each week. We typically do: 1 night of salad, 1 night soup/sandwich combo, 1 chicken dish, 1 ground turkey or venison dish, 1 fish/seafood dish, 1 night of leftovers, and one night out/take out {while this may not work for everyone, this is our makeshift “parents of two little ones who need a date night”, so it works for us!}

Once you have your plan, assess fridge, freezer, and pantry to see what you already have. THEN make a grocery list. I am sort of OCD in that I make a first list by listing ingredients for each meal. Then I go BACK through and re-organize the list according to store section to streamline shopping trips. A little more prep work, but it saves me loads of time at the store.

Staying Motivated

  • Post meal plan on the fridge for the whole family to see (hello accountability! and added bonus: no one will be asking you "what's for dinner?")
  • Share meal plans with friends to get ideas AND to keep each other on track
  • Take time each week to browse new recipes. You may not incorporate them that week, but it’s nice to have in your arsenal!
  • Bookmark a few favorite websites. Mine include Meal Planning Mommies and the Wellness Mama
  • Keep tempting foods out of the house and off the meal plan, BUT enjoy your favorite foods in moderation. Don't beat yourself up for having a few bites of cake or having a latte once in a while. Life is about balance and how you fuel your body is part of that.

Next week, we'll cover tips from current FIT4MOM Austin members, along with a few favorite dinner recipes to get you started. Comment on Facebook and let us know what else you'd like to see in terms of meal planning!

Happy planning and happier eating!

Xo, Jess