The best way to success when it comes to your nutrition is PLANNING!! By not planning your meals for the week, you’re setting yourself up for failure. By not knowing what’s for dinner or not having your lunches ready to go, it’s far too easy to stop at McDonald’s for a greasy burger and fries. Get out of that habit!! Planning for the week doesn’t take much of your time and will help you reach your goals. And trust me, I know what it’s like to be on a budget too. Healthy eating seems to cost so much more, right? But don’t let that stop you. I’ve learned how to find the best deals AND a simple way to plan. Here are my 6 steps to planning your meals for the entire week on a budget.
- Check what’s on sale
When on a budget, it’s super important to check what’s on sale at your local grocery store. This is how I always get the best deals. When first starting out, compare the circulars you get in the mail with a few different grocery stores. Over a few weeks of comparing, you should be able to tell which one you’ll save the most money at. For example, I shop at Winn Dixie because they tend to have great deals in their meat department and that’s the main thing I typically buy. You should be getting your store flyers mid-week. I like to browse through it real quick when I get it in just to get an idea of what they have on sale for that week and I keep that in the back of my head as I look up new recipes I want to try. I go back to the circular on Thursday night and jot down on my grocery list the items on sale that I plan to pick up. I mostly focus on the meat and produce that’s on sale and if they have a lot of BOGO meat, I know it’s time to stock my freezer. When I’m stocked up on meat for the week, my grocery list only consists of produce and other essentials which saves on the bill for that week. So one week I may spend more money (when I stock up on meat) and the next week I hardly spend any money. It all balances out so don’t freak out on a large grocery bill one week as long as you got some great deals!I should mention that when produce is on sale, you can also stock up on that and freeze it! Depending how far away your local farmer’s market is (consider gas money) you may end up doing better there for your produce and save some money.
- Put your staple items on the listThere are certain things I get every single week no matter what like eggs for my crock pot frittatas and milk for my hubby’s protein shakes. These are typically a no-brainer but they need to go on your list just in case you forget about them. Think about certain things you like to stock your kitchen with. I always have to have tuna in my pantry in case of a lunch emergency. I also always have frozen veggies as a backup. Go through your kitchen and see what your inventory looks like. Even check your paper towel, toothpaste and laundry detergent supply! I know those things have nothing to do with your meal planning for the week but they’re important to include on your list so I didn’t want to leave them out!
- Look up recipes you want to try
Once I have the sale items and my must-haves on the list, it’s time to have some fun. I love to look up healthy recipes on Pinterest and try new things. The recipes I choose must have a short and simple ingredients list with most of the items ideally things I already have in the kitchen and they must be super quick and simple so I can throw them together after work (crock pot recipes are the way to go). I also look for recipes that make a lot of food so we can use them as leftover for at least two days. Of course, you don’t have to try new recipes every week. Just plan out a few dinners that you haven’t had in awhile or are in the mood for. I do recommend mixing up your dinners so you don’t get bored and pick up fast food on the way home instead!
- Pick 1-2 things for breakfast and lunch
I like to keep my breakfast and lunch for the week super simple. In fact, I eat the same thing every day for these two meals. It helps me stay consistent, is easy to meal prep, and I don’t have to think twice about it. Pick one or two options for your breakfast and lunch for the week and add those things to your shopping list. The same thing goes for snacks! Keep those consistent throughout the week too. I usually like to do almonds, hard-boiled eggs, and berries as my snacks.
- Meal prep
By this time, you basically have your meals for the week planned out. You picked out one or two different breakfast and lunch options and chose which dinners you would like to have throughout the week. Now it’s time to meal prep. I could go on all day about my numerous meal prep tips but let’s save that for a different post. The idea here is just to prep what you can before the week starts to make your work-week a little easier on you. I like to prep my veggies (wash, chop, and store them) and my lunch, breakfast, and snacks for the week. It doesn’t matter how much meal prep you do, every little bit helps!
- Plan your meals around your schedule
Ok so there’s one more step in the meal planning process and that’s to schedule your meals. I know it sounds really lame but it does help when you’re short on time. Take a look at the dinners you plan to prepare for the week and how much time each takes. You don’t want to plan a certain meal that takes awhile if you have something going on after work. For example, if I plan to cook a ham which usually lasts several days for us, I’ll make that on a Sunday since I don’t have several hours for it to sit in the oven after work. If I have a crock pot recipe I’m making, I plan to get everything thrown in the crock pot the night before so all I have to do is turn it on the next morning. You don’t have to write each meal on your calendar unless you want to but it does helps having an idea in your head of what night you’ll be making each dinner.
So many of the excuses I hear for not eating healthy is either not enough time or not enough money. But guess what, sales on healthy foods DO exist and spending just an hour prepping and planning your meals for the week actually saves you a ton of time. Remember to find the best deals on meat and produce in your area even if that means heading to the local farmer’s market, find quick and simple meals to make for your family for the week, be consistent with your meals (breakfast, lunch, and snacks), and prep as much as you can before the week begins. Feel free to start slow. you don’t have to become an expert on these things overnight. For now, just scope out your local store and see where you can find the best deals.
Tell me, what is your BEST meal planning tip?? Comment below 🙂