Healthy Habits: Making a Meal Plan

One of the most important healthy habits we have as a family is our weekly meal plan. I’m sure you’ve probably heard of this before, and probably thought “that makes so much sense! I’ll try it out next week.” And then next week just never comes…

Most likely this is because making a meal plan seems like a BIG task. It doesn’t have to be! Here’s how we do it at Casa J&J…

First of all, WHY make a meal-planning at all?

Ever realized at the end of the day you don’t know what you’re eating that evening? Which means either doing a late supermarket trip, throwing a frozen pizza in the oven or just ordering in.

And then you end up with:

  • a less than ideally healthy meal
  • stress from last-minute logistics with cooking/bath/bedtime for the kiddos
  • a child meltdown because it’s late and they (or you) are HANGRY!

Meal-planning can help with all of this!

Simply put: It saves time, energy & stress.

Sure, in the beginning it takes a bit more time, but do it for say a month and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you get into the habit of it.

We spend a maximum of 30 minutes a week on our meal planning and (most of the time) do all grocery shopping on one day. AND….the way we plan there’s still room for spontaneity/mixing it up if we feel like something else or make other plans. This for a family of 4 by the way…

Added bonus: We rarely throw food away at the end of the week. Good for the environment and our bank account 🙂

Sounds pretty good right? I know! I seriously love it & would actually have a hard time now going through the week without some sort of basic meal plan.

So what to do? How to start?

First I’ll be giving you some tips on how to take on meal-planning and what to be aware of. Then you’ll get a step-by-step breakdown of how we do our meal-planning.

This is just ONE way of doing a meal-planning, so if something doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to do it differently. Find what works for you and make the meal plan you create your OWN. It’ll be much more fun this way & you’re likely to keep it up.

Make a rough estimate of what your household eats for breakfast & lunch.

Most of us are habit eaters and tend to eat pretty much the same meals for breakfast and lunches. Don’t worry if your estimate is off the first couple of times. This is a learning process.

Take some trusted dinner recipes you know you and your family like & make your first meal plan with these.

Some of my family’s favorites are risottos, spaghetti with red sauce, salad with quesadillas and rich veggie/lentil soups. These are staples that come back in different forms depending on the season and what we feel like that week.

I also love discovering new yummy food! As a rule of thumb however I stick to one new recipe a week, usually on the weekend when I have a bit more time to cook/play with food.

Experience has taught me that more new recipes in a week usually end up being stressful instead of fun :/.

Look at what’s planned this week.

Take any nights you (or your partner) will be home late or have an evening program into account. I tackle this by cooking a meal the evening before an event that we can eat for 2 days or a super easy, quick meals that I can put together with the kids around. Some meals, like a risotto can even last a couple days in the fridge & are ideal for those busy evenings.

Plan smart for less waste.

Oftentimes I’ll come across a recipe that calls for a half of a lemon, or one sweet pepper when I need to buy them in a pack of two or three. But what to do with the rest of that food? I simply look for other recipes that also use those ingredients to prevent waste.

To give concrete examples:

The half lemon that I needed for my citrus couscous, I use the other half in my water during the week for something a bit different.

I could only buy sweet peppers in a pack of three. I just need one for my pumpkin risotto. Then I use 1 for a snack at lunch, and one in a salad another evening.

The HOW. Your step by step guide to making a meal plan:
1. Make a digital note.

Let’s face it, most of us are pretty chummy with our mobile devices and have them on hand at most moments of the day. So, easiest place to make your plan and have it with you to check at all times? On your phone. If you can create a note you can share with your partner, even better!

What needs to be in this note?

  • Days of the week
  • Meals
  • Bullet list for shopping
2. Plug in your planned meals for every evening of the week.

This is literally what I have in our shared note “Menu and shopping list” for this week.

Extra tips for your week plan:

  • Write down ideas/inspiration you get along the way as ideas for the next week. Since this is a note you’ll refer to during the week, you’ll be reminded of those ideas, and it’s easy to copy-paste them into the day of the week for your next week plan.
  • Plan meals with ingredients that go bad first earlier in the week. I had Shakshuka planned on Monday because I had a bell pepper from the week before that was at the end of it’s lifespan.
3. Put ingredients you need for your evening meals (+ your breakfasts & lunches) on a checklist.

A check-list makes it super easy when you’re in the grocery store to 1) remember what it is you need to get and 2) stay focused and only get that! Plus, you can reuse the list from week to week, just un-check the items you need for that week & leave the ones you don’t checked off. On the list below for example, you can see that this week we don’t need black olives or tortilla wraps.

Extra tips for your shopping list:

  • Put next to the item what meal you need it for & how much of it. This is helpful for example if you make the plan, but your partner is the one in the grocery store doing the shopping.
  • Arrange the items on your list in the order you will get them as you walk through the store. It makes for a very relaxed shopping process!
That’s it.

Not THAT hard right?

Now, I challenge you to DO IT! Make a meal-planning for next week! If you share it here, even better! I always love trying out new meals 🙂

Questions or comments on this post? Don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m happy to help!

Lacking meal inspiration? Be sure to check out my next blog on easy delicious family meals 🙂


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