Meal planning takes practice and patiences to master and, like most worthwhile endeavors, requires some studying. Whether you're new to meal planning or a veteran meal planner, learning these five essential lessons will help you plan breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for a brighter week.
1. Plan your work and work your plan.
This is a guiding principle for creating meal plans that is both organized and flexible. Look at your calendar for the week and decide which days allow for more elaborate breakfasts and which days call for freezer breakfast burritos. Leave a few meals unplanned through the week so you can eat up leftovers or grab lunch with friends.
Read More: The Golden Rule of Meal Planning
2. Rely on your freezer for breakfast.
Ah, the freezer — a true treasure trove of sustenance. Stock it with breakfast sandwiches or slow-cooker breakfast casserole kits; stash lunch staples, like beans and grains, for simple lunch box salads; and fill it to the brim with freezer-to-table dinners and a few cooked-and-ready-to-reheat staples.
Make the Most of the Freezer
3. Make food you actually want to eat for lunch.
This is a critical misstep that most new meal planners make: Don't cook aspirational food for your meal plans. Leave those for weekend cooking projects and weave them into recipe rotations when you've mastered them. Instead prepare and cook things that you will actually enjoy eating.
Lunch Lessons: 5 Tips for Mastering Lunch: Build to Last All Week
4. Portion servings for snacks.
Snacks should always be considered part of meal planning. These mini-meals keep us sustained between meetings, carpool, and Netflix binges. The secret to meaningful snacking is proportioning and packaging servings.
Snack Survival Skills
5. Schedule a celebration.
Meal planning takes practice and discipline. While a week of meals is enough reason to celebrate, it is equally important to schedule a break from meal planning. Schedule a dinner out or swap dinner dates with like-minded friends; use the extra time you've created in your otherwise hectic schedule to meet friends for dessert and celebrate your successes.
These are the five tips we've found most essential; now we'd love to hear yours. What makes meal-planning sustainable and enjoyable for you?