Happy 2018! Now is the time when magazines and websites start talking about New Year's resolutions. We don't necessarily believe in them (so many set you up to fail!), but we do believe in making every year better than the one before it. And so we present you with Feel Good Habits. Every day this week, we'll be running tips to help you with a new promise you might have made yourself.
It's no secret how much we love a good meal plan around here. When done correctly, meal planning can save you money and eliminate weeknight stress. And it can be fun! We promise. If you're hoping to plan ahead more (versus stare blankly into the fridge every night at 6:30), then this story is for you.
Here are our best — and easiest! — tips to make sure you start meal planning in 2018.
1. Make one inaugural trip to the store.
If your pantry needs some legit stocking, do that now. It's going to be easier to make a handful of recipes if you already have, say, diced tomatoes, olive oil, rice, and more on hand.
Use this shopping list: 10 Essentials to Have in Your Pantry for Better Meal Planning
2. Then grocery shop once a week or less.
Last year, one of our writers set out to meal plan more and decided that she'd make a trip to the grocery store every seven days. "Supplemental trips should be avoided, unless they are absolutely necessary," she wrote. The more you go to the store, the more you risk adding items you don't actually need. Plus, the time and energy you spend getting there will add up, too.
See how she did it: My Healthy Habit Challenge: I Started Meal Planning
3. Start now!
If you're waiting for a week that's less busy than usual, know this: That is not a thing that exists. Our weeks are always busy. Even the weeks we don't think will be busy! So start now. Simply plan out two or three dinners for the week. Then you can slowly start adding additional planned nights to your roster. Soon, even lunch and breakfast might make it into your routine.
4. Pull from recipes you know and love.
You don't need to reinvent the wheel here: Don't feel pressured to fill the week with all sorts of recipes you've never tried. Looking for recipes takes time and they're not always to your liking the first time around. Make meals you know how to make — and ones that you and your family love.
5. Make extra food.
Double batches are allowed — nay, encouraged! Leftovers can be repurposed as weekday lunches or subsequent dinners. You can even freeze a big batch of something and defrost it down the line for a bonus dinner.
6. And always keep a few prepared things on hand.
In addition to having a stocked pantry, having a few things prepared ahead of time will help you, too. Make a big batch of roasted veggies, a grain like rice or quinoa, and a sauce or two and you'll have the base of a meal ready to pull together a moment's notice.
7. Don't be overly ambitious.
Meal planning is a marathon, not a sprint. Just because you have three hours to devote to meal planning today doesn't mean you'll have the same three hours next week.
8. Consider breakfast for dinner.
Not to generalize here or anything, but almost every family likes breakfast for dinner. It's a fun surprise, and it's easy and inexpensive. Breakfast for dinner deserves a spot in all meal plans. Ditto for homemade pizza night.
9. Be flexible.
Just because you are out of one ingredient does not mean that you need to trudge back to the store. Out of rice? Make couscous instead! Work with what you have.
10. Make it fun!
Yes, we realize this all sounded way too serious. Meal planning doesn't have to be so straight-laced. In fact, it shouldn't be.
Read more: 5 Ways to Make Meal Planning More Fun
Even More Tips for Meal Planning
- The Top 10 Mistakes Meal Planning Beginners Make (and How to Solve Them)
- How I Got Back on the Meal-Planning Wagon
- 7 Things I Never Do When Creating a Weekly Meal Plan
- Ask Yourself These 5 Questions Before You Start Meal Planning
- The Beginner's Guide to Meal Planning: What to Know, How to Succeed, and What to Skip
Are you hoping to meal plan more in 2018? What are you going to do in order to make sure that happens?