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5 steps to better meal planning
Meal planning is all the rage, and can really help you save time, money, and effort during the week. But following inefficient meal planning processes won't help save you anything. Here are 4 tips to make meal planning work for you. - photo by Rebecca Clyde
Meal prep is all the rage, but is there good reason for this rage? Yes, there is. Taking a bit of time at the beginning of the week can set you up to save time, money and your sanity during the busy week. Here are five easy tips to make your meal plan work for you and to simplify the process.

1. Consider your constraints. This is probably one of the most important steps in meal planning. You need to know your specific barriers to cooking or preparing healthy meals. By identifying these constraints, youll be able to work within those constraints and be more prepared to actually eat better. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Interest in cooking

2. Experience with cooking and with food

3. Budget

4. Time

5. Whether youll use prepared/prepped foods or homemade foods

6. Your target trouble times (start here)

7. Work/on-the-go constraints

2. Plan our your week of meals know your calendar and when youll have time to cook. That way youre more likely to follow through on your plans.

What should your meals look like? Think MyPlate. Half of your plate filled with non-starchy vegetables.

How many meals do you need to plan/prep for

Ways to make cooking easy and quick: one pot/pan meals, double duty meals, plan on leftovers/freezing extras for later

Where to look for recipes:

3. Meal Prep. Go ahead and actually prepare foods or meals ahead of time.

Determine your methods: Will you prepare individual foods ahead of time (beans, veggies, grain), prepare whole meals (breakfasts, lunches, dinners), prepare and freeze (individual or whole meals) or a combo of these.

Multitask (chop and assemble while cooking), remember food safety

Prep veggies at once for 3-5 days

4. Meal Prep Hacks

1. Dry oatmeal

2. Layered salads

3. Use your muffin tin

4. Smoothie bags (for the freezer)

5. Crock pot meals (frozen ahead of time)

6. Cook up plain meat or seasoned meat for the week

7. Freeze meals or individual foods

5. Shop Smart. Planning out your grocery trip can help you save time, money and extra trips to the store.

1. Focus on whats in season/ on sale

2. Frozen produce

3. Beans, eggs for protein

4. Spend the time to prep produce, soak dried beans, make lunches

5. Remember to not shop hungry or bored because youre more likely to buy more than what you need and fill your cart with foods that arent necessarily the healthiest.

Now that you know how to meal plan and prepare to make eating healthy a snap, you're ready to save time, money and your sanity. If you'd like another tool to help you meal plan like a pro, sign up here to download a meal planning e-book.