Whether it's your first foray into meal planning or you've given it a shot but have yet to make it really work for you, I believe the approach you take makes all the difference. In my experience a solid, successful meal plan hinges on the work that happens over the weekend. With some upfront work spread Friday through Sunday, you will be rewarded with a sustainable plan that feels achievable and easy to put into action once the weekdays roll around. Based on tried-and-true experience, this is the best way to take advantage of the weekend to make meal planning a total success.
Employ a 3-Step Approach
Meal planning is a marathon, not a sprint. Get started too late and it can feel like a disorganized, mad dash. And attempting to tackle it all at once in a single day, while doable, has a way of feeling totally overwhelming.
Instead, take advantage of the weekend to employ a leisurely three-step approach to meal planning that goes something like the following:
- Plan on Friday: Look at the week ahead, assess your schedule and the nights you plan to cook at home, and then decide on the recipes you want to make.
- Shop on Saturday: After you have a chance to scan your recipes, check the pantry and make a grocery list. Then head to the grocery store to shop for your meal plan.
- Prep on Sunday: A Sunday prep session in the kitchen (even just 30 minutes), helps put your meal plan into action and makes weeknight cooking feel a little easier.
Step 1: Plan on Friday (with a cocktail in hand)
The first step in meal planning is the actual planning. Use Friday to forecast your week, choose your recipes, and set your plan in place. Sit down, with a drink in hand (perhaps a cocktail or a mug of tea), along with a notepad or bullet journal and your go-to recipe resources, whether they're websites like ours or cookbooks.
Assess your schedule and goals are for the week. Maybe you want something wholesome after Tuesday night's spin class or an extra-quick dinner on the night you work late. Maybe Mondays are the day you always crave a comforting bowl of pasta. Whatever this looks like for you, let planning be the beginning of your meal plan.
As a meal planning devotee, I can tell you that this is the first step in feeling empowered, organized, and totally in charge of mealtime for the week ahead.
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Step 2: Shop on Saturday
Time to start putting your plan into action! Yesterday you decided what recipes you'll be cooking in the coming week, and today it's time to make sure your kitchen is stocked with all the ingredients you'll need to make it happen.
This trip to the grocery store will set you up for the week ahead. The beauty of shopping for a meal plan on Saturday is that it eliminates several after-work trips to the store during the week. Maybe you'll need to stop by late in the week to pick up fresh fish for Thursday's dinner, but the Saturday shop tackles the bulk of the week's groceries.
Take inventory of the staples on hand in the pantry, fridge, and freezer, then read through the ingredient lists of the recipes you picked out on Friday night. Make a list of everything you'll need to pick up, and then head to the grocery store. Since afternoons tend to mean more shoppers and longer lines, I like to go first thing in the morning or on Saturday night.
Take Some Tips from Smart Shoppers
Step 3: Prep and Prepare on Sunday
Now it's time to work your plan. This is the step that begins to put your meal plan into action and ultimately makes weeknight cooking faster, easier, and more efficient.
I recommend setting aside one hour on Sunday to prep and prepare the ingredients, or even a full meal, as part of the week's plan. Don't have an hour to spare? Even 30 minutes will make a difference. Let your schedule and priorities dictate what this looks like for you. It can be as simple as cutting up the veggies for a stir-fry, baking some sweet potatoes, or cooking a pot of chili so all you have to do is reheat it on Tuesday night. Tackling dinner prep in advance saves you time during the week and ultimately makes putting your meal plan into action easier.
Your turn — tell us how you use the weekend for meal planning! What are your secrets for success?