Top Tips from a Meal-Planning Expert

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Photo by Kate Sayre
Photo by Kate Sayre

You may remember that last January I blogged about my goal to meal plan, which was to plan for 3 dinners each week. As accountability is a large part of what I do, I am holding myself subject by giving you an update.

Did I schedule recipes every week? Nope. Was my life easier when I took the time on the weekend to do so? Yep. I always tell my clients that we learn something from each of the goals we set – we either better understand what works well for us or realize that an action item is not realistic in our current situation. We are then able to adjust those original goals so that we have a higher likelihood that we will accomplish them.

In addition to the suggestions I made in my post last year, here is what I learned this past year that works well for my family:

  1. Use the sales circular as meal building blocks. If salmon is on sale at Whole Foods this week, I then build a meal around that protein. Not only am I saving money, but also it gives me a place to start rather than becoming overwhelmed by all the recipes on the internet or Pinterest.
  2. If we are traveling on the weekend, I must plan even further ahead. I found last year that if we were away for the weekend, planning went out the window and we entered into “survival mode” which meant frantically shopping late on a Sunday for breakfast items and possibly a few other things. Needless to say, that did not set our week up for success. On those weeks, I need to take the time to plan recipes and a grocery list ahead of time so that I know exactly what I need to get at the store when I get back from travel.
  3. Choose a theme night. Our start of each week tends to be pretty busy, so we always do something simple on Monday evenings that is on the table in 20 minutes or less. This often ends up being salmon with a carbohydrate and steamed vegetables – a meal we each like that is super easy to prepare.
  4. Plan for leftovers. There is nothing that I dislike more than wasting food that I spent quite a bit of time preparing. As I have a habit of making more than we need, we plan a leftover night to consume these options. This also helps with one of our busier nights when we do not have a lot of time to make a meal from scratch.
  5. Keep the staples on hand. For me, this includes olive oil, garlic, onions and beans. Nothing slows down a night of cooking like not having the ingredients you need.

I would love to hear some things that work for you as I am always learning right alongside my readers!

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Kate Sayre

Kate Sayre is a Registered Dietitian who counsels clients through her private practice and works in the Department of Nutrition at UNC. On the 1st and 15th of every month, she guest blogs here. 
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