“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Once a week, I will be sharing a tip, trick, or some interesting information about meal planning. I believe meal planning is critical to any long term and effective healthy living or weight loss goals. For me it was the single thing that finally made permanent weight loss achievable. The quote stood true, when I failed to plan, I failed, and I don’t want that to happen to others.
Additionally, I believe that meal planning is a skill that takes time to master and we can all use some help! When I first started meal planning it took up countless hours pouring over recipes, calculating nutritional info and/or points, and creating elaborate calendars. It was painful. Anything I can do to ease that pain for someone else is a win-win in my book.
Finally, I hope by sharing meal planning strategies, it will help you find a system that works for you. Whether it’s using our meal plans, scratching one into your weekly planner, or creating your own meal planning system – I hope this feature inspires you to start planning at least a few meals every week. It will save you time, money, and it truly will help you reach your weight loss and healthy living goals. So with that, on to this week’s tip!
1. Plan Around What You Already Have: Even with the best intentions, most of us always have some extra ingredients on hand that we bought for a meal we didn't end up preparing. To save money and reduce waste, this is the best place to start when it comes to meal planning. Do you have proteins that need to be used? A box of pasta or can of beans that you want to use up? A lot of extra brown rice or quinoa? An extra dozen eggs? Produce about to go bad? Start your meal plan with these ingredients in mind building main dishes or side dishes around everything you need to use. Find recipes focused on those ingredients, making sure to use them at the beginning of the week if they might expire.
2. Check our Your Weekly Grocery Store Flyer: Your weekly grocery store flyers are the next place to get ideas for your meal plans. Find out what proteins, produce, dairy, and whole grains are on sale and then use those ingredients to search for and choose recipes for your meal plan. For example, if pork tenderloin is on sale at your grocery store consider making a large slow cooker recipe for dinner and leftovers with that ingredient. If chicken breast is on sale, choose a couple recipes that week for chicken. Building (or customizing your Slender Kitchen meal plan) around these sales can lead to significant savings.
3. Prepare Your Own Veggies and Salads: While it's easy to reach for prepackaged salads and chopped veggies, it's significantly more expensive. Instead, set aside an hour on Sunday to prep your veggies and salad for the week. Chop up all the veggies you will need for recipes and snacks. Then prepare a big batch of washed greens to use for salads. The one exception to this is frozen vegetables, which are sometimes less expensive than vegetables that may be out of season or expensive.
4. Stay Away From Packaged & Prepared Foods: Packaged foods tend to be some of the most expensive items in the store and can quickly add up. Whenever possible try to stick to fresh foods and basic canned goods, frozen goods, and grains. In addition, buy store brands whenever possible since many times they are the same quality and about half the price.
5. Use Bulk Bins: Bulk bins can save you lots of money when it comes to spices, grains, nuts, and seeds. Since you can buy exactly how much you need, you don't end up with a five pound bag when you only need 1/2 cup. In addition, if you can find bulk spice bins, there are significant savings.
6. Stick to Your Meal Plan & Shopping List: One of the biggest ways to save money is to stick to a meal plan and shopping list. Going to the store knowing exactly what you need eliminates unnecessary purchases that lead to wasted money and many times food waste. Map out your meals for the week (using your own meal planner or ours), create your shopping list, check out what you already have, and stick to your list at the store. Avoid impulse purchases and if you are like me, eat before you head to the grocery store so hunger doesn't make you reach for lots of extras.
7. Stock Up On Staples During Sales: Always keep your eyes open for sales on staple items and stock up when they are on sale. Many pantry items last for months and can be purchased in bulk when the price is right. In addition, you can freeze most meats for future use, so don't be afraid to stock up when there is a really good sale.
I know meal planning will save money, but I don't have time! If you don't have time to create your own meal plans, you may want to consider starting from a pre-made meal plan like the ones we offer on Slender Kitchen. Each week you will be provided with a new suggested meal plan. All the hard work is done. Then if there is anything that doesn't appeal to you in that week's plan, just delete that recipe and swap in a new one. This works perfectly for adding recipes based on ingredients you have at home or sales at your grocery store. Everything updates automatically in the plan, including your shopping list, and you will start seeing savings right away.
Love the idea of meal planning but don’t want to do all the work? Since I know that many people simply don’t have the time to create their own healthy meal plans, we provide delicious and healthy meal plans at Slender Kitchen that you can customize to meet your needs.
Here are some highlights from this week’s healthy meal plans:
Each healthy weekly meal plan comes full of delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The meal plans come in regular, vegetarian, and low carb options. All feature complete nutritional information, Weight Watchers PointsPlus®, and categorized shopping lists! There are also two bonus fallback recipes weekly and the option for either a complete meal plan or a Dinner Only plan. All that for less the cost of one cup of coffee per month with the yearly plan.
Customizable weekly meal plans that include recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, nutritional information, shopping lists, and more.
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