If you’re like me, you’re tired when you get home from work. Whether your job is mentally or physically demanding (or both!) sometimes coming home and needing to cook can feel overwhelming. We all know that home cooked meals are better for us, and our pocket books, than restaurant food or prepackaged meals but sometimes it’s so hard to muster up the energy to walk into the kitchen and start cooking. If you feel this way, you’re not alone - many people do. Fortunately there is a solution: meal planning!


Meal planning can be as simple or as detailed as you need it to be. From making sure you have pantry staples on hand to planning out full days of meals. There is no right or wrong way to do it. If you are new to meal planning, my advice is to start small – plan the meal that you struggle with the most.


If, for example, you eat and enjoy a good breakfast most of the time, then breakfast is not a meal that you struggle with. But, if you find yourself coming home at the end of the day on a regular basis, rifling through your cupboards while getting more and more frustrated until you call the pizza place for ‘the usual’, then supper is a meal that needs work. Fix what doesn’t work for you, not what does.


It can take some time to get used to meal planning, but soon you’ll be surprised how easy and fast it can be. I take 30 minutes each weekend to plan out my supper meals for the week. That’s all it takes and it makes the rest of my week run much more smoothly. I don’t stress about dinner because I know that I have a plan in place to make sure I’m getting the healthy foods I need.


Here are some tips to get you started on your way to meal planning success.


1. Set a goal


How do you want your meal plan to benefit you? Do you want to save money? Reduce food waste? Increase your veggies intake? Setting a goal gives your plan a purpose and helps keep you on track.


2. Make a pantry pass


Look through your cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what you have on hand already. This can reduce food waste and save you money when shopping. Go through the grocery flyers as well to take advantage of sales on items you buy regularly.


3. Get some food-spiration


Once you know what you have on hand, and also what’s in your local store’s flyer, you can decide what you want to make. Use recipe books, Pinterest or food blogs for ideas. Don’t be afraid to get creative – making the same meal all the time gets boring and makes you less likely to want to cook.


4. Make a list, check it twice


Ever go grocery shopping without a list? How’d that work out for you? It sure doesn’t work for me! Making a list ensures you won’t forget anything you need for your recipes and it makes you less likely to impulse buy or double up on an ingredient you already have.


5. Avoid the shopping munchies


If you’ve gone grocery shopping while hungry you know exactly why this is a bad idea. Everything looks delicious! You may end up spending more money than you planned and buy foods you don’t usually eat just because they look tasty. Some of those foods may not be the greatest choices either. If you feel the hunger gremlin start to bite before you head out, grab a snack first.


Meal planning is a great way to save money, reduce meal time stress, limit food waste and ensure you’re getting the foods you need to be healthy. If you’re struggling to get home cooked meals on the table: start meal planning!


For more information on meal planning check out: http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Plan-Shop-Cook/Plan-Well.aspx


Happy planning!

Meals Made Easy: Five Steps to Success!

by Sarah Campbell-Bligh, RD

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© 2018 by The Dietitians Network of Nova Scotia.