Meal planning is hugely important when trying to eat a diet centered around whole foods. If I don’t have a plan of attack heading into a week’s worth of dinners, I’m much more vulnerable to the temptation of take out (which is just fine every once in a while, but not always the healthiest or cost efficient option), or worse, food-out-of-a-box. If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend checking out Jenny Rosenstrach’s hugely popular book (based on her blog of the same name), Dinner: A Love Story. It’s one of my favorites because it not only stresses the importance of sitting down to family dinners, but it gives super helpful tips on getting a homemade meal on the table most nights, whether you’re a busy professional or a stressed out stay at home mom. Spoiler alert: it involves meal planning. I try and put together a meal plan most weeks, and I find that it not only does it go a long way in guaranteeing healthier choices, but it also allows me to calmly answer my husband when he asks, “What’s for dinner?” rather than shooting him a death glare and mumbling something about a frozen Trader Joe’s meal under my breath.
My 5 step foolproof plan of attack? Read on, sister!
- Decide what nights you’re “off the hook” – AKA nights that you’re eating leftovers, designated takeout night, dinners out. For me, this is usually 1-2 nights a week. Block those out on your calendar.
- Make the other 5-6 nights loosely planned around “themes”. I usually stick with soup & salad night, Italian night (usually pizza or pasta), taco night, burger night, and Asian night (usually curry or stir fry). Of course, I don’t always stick to those themes, but they’re helpful in kickstarting the planning process.
- Try to incorporate one new recipe each week. This prevents boredom and burnout and it’ll improve your cooking game! Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone; flip through cookbooks and cooking magazines for inspiration.
- Cook with what’s in season. Head to your local farmer’s market and fill up your shopping tote with as many seasonal vegetables as you can handle, and then once home, plan meals around your market haul and challenge yourself to use everything up by week’s end.
- Designate a day to do the majority of your grocery shopping. Make a master shopping list based on the meals you planned out and pick up the majority of ingredients in one day. You can fill in the gaps throughout the week but the lion’s share of shopping should be done all at once, in advance.