After a long day of work, nobody wants to think about what’s for dinner. That’s where meal planning comes in handy. And it helps if you already have the groceries in the house to make said meal.
But how and when do you decide what meals to make and what groceries to buy? And how do you keep it healthy?
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, portion sizes depend on the age, gender and activity level of an individual, but you should aim to make half your plate fruits and vegetables. You should try to make half the grains you eat be whole grains, and switch to fat-free or low-fat milk. You also should choose a variety of lean protein foods, choose lower sodium options, incorporate seafood into your diet and cut back on solid fats.
Having a good idea of what your plate should look like, you can make a meal plan. Whether you grocery shop weekly, monthly or pick up things every few days, meal planning can really help. According to TheKitchn.com, the best way to start meal planning is to start on a Friday. Plan the meals on Friday, shop on Saturday morning and then use an hour or so on Sunday to prep some food for the week.
Start by thinking about what you and your family want to eat, if you want to save some money this grocery trip, if you want variety in your meals, if you have a busy week and need easy meals, etc. From there, you can choose go-to dishes you know you love and mix in new recipes you want to try. Sometimes it helps to choose dishes that use some of the same ingredients, so you can keep your costs low and not waste any food. To do so, start the week by eating foods that could go bad quickly—think salads, fresh fish, produce in general.
If you’re not opposed to leftovers—or like to use them for next-day lunches or two-day meals—make sure you’re buying enough ingredients to double the recipe.
As you’re deciding which recipes you want for the week, make sure to start a grocery list alongside the recipes so you don’t forget anything.
Although TheKitchn.com recommends weekly grocery shopping trips, you can adjust to your needs. You may want to do one big grocery trip weekly or bi-weekly to get the staples, meats and first round of produce and swing by the grocery store or farmers’ markets throughout the week to replenish fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fresh meat.
After a couple weeks of meal planning and no more debating what’s for dinner, your life may be just a bit easier. If you’re so inclined to use your Sunday morning or afternoon to prep stuff for the week, your 6 p.m. weekday self may thank you for already cooking the chicken or cutting the peppers.