Meal Plan like a Dietitian
I get asked to create meal plans for clients and families all the time. Although I can do this easily, trust me...most people won't follow the meal plan. I know there is good intentions, but it' most likely not going to work. Why? Because making meals is a very personal process. I don't know what you like to eat, what your cooking skills are or what else you have going on in your life during the week.
What may be a more valuable process for you is getting some guidance on how to meal plan for your family using the help of a dietitian. If you'd like to follow along my process here's a step by step break down of how I plan meals for the week.
1. What's going on this week? 🤔
Think about the week ahead. Whats going on for your family? Sports in the evening? Meetings? Everyone is home, or hubby is away?
This can guide you about how much time you have to put into cooking. If you've got a busy night coming up one of the best things you can do is to have a simple plan. This will reduce the need to pick up something quick and maybe less nutritious. That being said, some times my plan will be to pick something up. And that's ok too.
Personally though when life gets crazy (stays crazy) and I find myself eating out more than I would like or more than I have planed, I don't feel at my best.
2. look for meal inspiration
Meal inspiration is every where. Ask a friend what the recipe was they posted on insta. Ask your mom, remember that thing you used to make us in the crock pot when we were kids...do you still have the recipe? Hear your kids complaining they don't want salmon? They want pizza! Put pizza on your meal plan for next week. Then you've got all the standard places to look for recipes: cook books, food blogs, pinterest, magazines at the grocery store check out.
Make a simple Sunday to Monday meal list. I often start with just planning suppers. Because breakfasts are pretty easy to make and if I make supper then I will have leftovers for lunches. Drop your recipe ideas into a day of the week. If you're new, try planning 2 suppers per week and see if you like it.
Sometimes I like to use themes like the following:
Wednesday: leftovers or eggs
Friday: eat out or order in >or insert crock pot ideas here<
Sunday: casserole, soup, stew, chili, roast meat
But the thing that guides my week night meals the most is the time I have to prepare the meal.
3. Create the grocery list 📝
Make your grocery list. I have 2 grocery lists. The food all ends up on the same list, but I think about how the food gets on the list in 2 ways.
The Replacement Grocery list
-used up pantry items (spices, condiments, canned goods, pasta, rice)
-used up fridge items (apples, veg, milk, cheese)
-standard fruit and veggies (bananas, broccoli, leafy greens, potatoes)
-if some one says they want more of some thing next week (sometimes it gets on the list and sometimes it doesn't, because I'm the parent and I decide WHAT we eat)
The Meal Plan Grocery List
-all the missing ingredients to make the recipes I have planned for the week
-HOW: look at recipe, decide what foods you don't have, run around kitchen to double check (this can be a great job for any kid who can read)
4. Buy the foods and enjoy your plan 😉
This can feel crazy the first time you do it. Like I can't believe I'm buying all this food!!!
But here's what can happen. You spend all this time considering your week ahead, thinking about what to cook, making your list then buying all the food. You are really invested in this meal plan now. And when you're really invested in your plan, you are can't help but carry it through to the last step, actually cooking it. This is the difference between getting a meal plan handed to you, and one you've put the effort into making.
Once you get used to it you will find that your meal plans will save you time, money and effort. If you find yourself not feeling like cooking one day this is totally OK too! Do what you need to survive that night, order in, pick up food, make something that you know the kids will eat. You can always shift your Tuesday night's plan ahead to the next day when you're feeling more like it.