My secret weapon to eating healthy and mostly at home during the week is meal planning! I literally take my grocery store receipt every week and write what we are having for dinner on the back of it every Sunday (saving paper!).
Although, typically I start the process before going shopping for the week by looking at what we already have (i.e. red lentils) to narrow down my options. This also helps ensure I’m not wasting food.
Meal planning is great because I don’t have to go rummaging through my refrigerator and cabinets at the end of the workday, trying to figure out what we have to throw together. Which would probably result in frustration and a lot more eating out.
Already knowing what we are going to have for dinner also helps me eat a balanced diet. For example, if we’re having tacos for dinner, I’ll probably skip the burrito bar at work and stick with something like a salad.
Aside from taking inventory of what I already have to help me plan weeknight dinners, I also try to generally stick to the following guidelines:
- I typically start thinking about what grain or starch we are going to have each night (i.e.: brown rice, quinoa pasta, corn tortillas, or sourdough bread)
- Next I figure out the vegetable – the standard lineup in our house is organic peas (my favorite!), green beans, broccoli, some kind of lettuce, and mushrooms (and occasionally peppers)
- More often than not, I buy peas, green beans, and broccoli frozen because they last basically forever (even though we use them up pretty fast) and Trader Joe’s has relatively cheap, organic offerings
- Last I decide what protein and fat I’ll use – mostly this is some kind of bean or lentil with cheese or avocado
- I’m big on variety so I rarely repeat the same meal – or kind of meal (i.e.: pasta with tomato sauce and mac n cheese) in a week*
- I also find it helpful to account for flexibility in your plan – I usually leave Fridays as a “date night” or “order in” night but if last minute dinner plan come up during the week, I can change our “out” meal to that day; eating what we would have had that night on Friday instead
- It’s also helpful to always have one go-to healthy meal ready to whip up quickly
- For us, this is usually quinoa pasta with some veg + olive oil and garlic
- I saw in the documentary series Cooked that Michael Pollan has canned salmon, frozen spinach, and whole wheat pasta on hand to make a quick, healthy meal if need be
- Some other options could include pre-made and frozen quesadillas with hummus (makes for such a creamy, yummy quesadilla!) and a can of pinto beans or even a simple veggie frozen pizza is a good option
This week our menu looks like this:
|Monday: avocado toast with sliced tomato + a spinach and mushroom salad|
|Tuesday: potato tacos with guac and salsa verde + chopped tomatoes and pinto beans|
|Wednesday: mushroom ravioli with green beans|
|Thursday: veggie (onion, peas, peppers, and spinach) fried rice|
|Friday: out or order in|
- We had some sliced sourdough in the freezer that I need to use
- I bought avocado and was sure to incorporate it in two dinners (Monday and Tuesday) so nothing was wasted
- I’m using the last of the tomato from Monday on our tacos
- I’m actually going to dinner with a friend but we have both the mushroom ravioli (already made from TJs) and green beans frozen and ready for Mike to easily prepare
- Veg fired rice is a regular contender in our house because you can use whatever veggies you have leftover or on hand, which makes for a great end of the week meal
- Breakfast for dinner is always another great option for Fridays as it is quick, easy, and flexible
Whats Up Moms recently made a video about meal planning that is worth checking out for some more tips. 🙂
*this is just my preference though! I’m sure repeat meals work great for other people, particularly families with busy mamas and dads.