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Following the Five Simple Steps you’ve taken the plunge to eat something called “real food”. An exciting time–changes are being made, healthy food is filling your fridge and pantry. Your family is blessed by delicious and healthy meals. After a few weeks, suddenly all those farmer market veggies begin to rot and that special grass-fed beef is still sitting in the freezer, just waiting to be used. You need a plan! Without a good solid plan real food just is not going to happen.
If the thought of meal planning is overwhelming or seems too time-consuming, don’t fret. Even as a blogger and long-time foodie, meal planning isn’t my favorite activity. Laundry and dishes look so enjoyable when meal planning rises the top of the to-do list. But, here’s the deal, I know it must be done. In order for real food to happen on a daily basis in our home, I need a practical plan.
We’ve talked about meal planning 101 in the past. I’ve shared my practical guide to a solid weekly meal plan, and even written the Real Food Planning Challenge! While I love sharing my tips, I find branching out and asking for advice is refreshing. This week, I reached out to some of my favorite bloggers. These bloggers are foodies making real food work for their family on a daily basis, while managing busy lives. Their practical tips are a breath of fresh air and have given me new ideas for how to simplify and implement a solid meal plan that actually works.
I realize seventeen tips may be overwhelming. Don’t worry, you don’t have to take them all today. Pin or bookmark this post, that way practical tips are waiting for you every time you feel a tad bit frustrated. I hope you find encouragement and fresh meal planning ideas as you read through the wonderful advice below.
“Look for ways you can use the same main dish twice in a week. A large beef roast could be used for soup or sandwiches another night. A whole chicken can be served one night with vegetables and mashed potatoes, and in a pot pie the next night. This method saves money and time in the kitchen.” Tara at We Got Real
“I like to vary our protein sources through the week, and that then helps me make up a meal plan. For five nights out the of the week, I choose a meals that are based on beef or venison, chicken or pork, fish, vegetarian, and then a small amount of one of the meats already used during the week. It helps me have a guideline so the process doesn’t overwhelm me and gives us variety in our meals.”Kristen at Smithspirations
“Meal planning helps you break-free from the same-old, same-old! Another great benefit of meal planning is that it helps you to start incorporating more variety in your meal rotations. As you begin planning your meals each week, you can more easily schedule new meals to try, or schedule time to revamp and “health-ify” some of your old favorites. In addition, when you create a weekly meal plan, it’s also much easier to see potential deficits in your diet, such as too many carbs and not enough veggies.” Kelly at The Nourishing Home
“Include your family. My kids love to each pick a meal for the week, as well as help out with the grocery shopping and cooking. My husband also chooses 1 to 2 meals per week that he wants to make. It is a family effort and takes some of the meal planning pressure off of me. I also notice that everyone eats better and there are less complaints when they have had a say in the meal prep.” Courtney at Family Gone Healthy
“Occasionally double your favorite recipe and freeze half of it. Keeping food that’s already prepared in the freezer will prevent those last minute pizza deliveries on days when you’re running behind and didn’t get a chance to prepare dinner!” Aubrey at Homegrown and Healthy
“Cook once, eat twice! Or three or four times. Always make enough for lunch the next day, dinner later in the week, or to load up the freezer. This will allow you to make the most of your time in the kitchen and always have healthy options on hand for your family.” Zoe at One Beet
“My meal planning tip is always prep all ingredients first and read the recipe first. Prepping and knowing what you will be doing ahead of time saves waste. While you are prepping save all veggies scraps (except green veggies). The only green veggie allowed in stock is celery and freeze until you have enough for stock. For veggies and fruit that are almost at the end of their life, don’t toss them simply wash and chop and freeze. Use them for soups and smoothies. Yay. No waste!!” Kristine at Real Food Girl: Unmodified
“On Sundays I make sure I stock up on plenty of fresh produce and real food to keep us going all week. I make a giant pot of vegetable soup for lunches and snacks and big bowls of quinoa and brown rice, so I have whole grains ready to go for whenever I need them, perfect for dinners, salads and breakfasts!” Sherrie at With Food and Love
“Menu planning weekly is a good thing. Menu planning for a month at a time is a great thing. This is where you’ll save the most money, since you won’t be at the mercy of weekly store sales, and can stock up on your favorite healthy food items while they’re on sale. You’ll also save time and ensure success, because once you make a monthly menu plan, you’re done. You can reuse it month after month, without needing to do it again. I’ve even made menu plans that vary by season, with one for Spring/Summer and another for Fall/Winter.” Heather at In God’s Economy
“Prepare food ahead of time. Take time on the weekend to chop veggies for salads, roast a squash or bunch of sweet potatoes, or make snacks for the week. Having healthy food available during the week when you’re hungry will help you make good choices, and you won’t waste as much food, which saves money in your budget.” Lauren at Mindful Meals
Note: Lauren offers free meal planning/prep worksheets for people who subscribe to her newsletter.
“I like to buy fruits in bulk when they are in season (or use the excess fruits on my trees) and make purees of them and freeze them
in (perfectly cubed) ice cube trays that fit really well in my freezer. Then I use those to make smoothies for my son and I. I use smoothies to sneak veggies, like spinach, into his diet that he normally wouldn’t eat. Mixed with fruit, though, he loves them. I do the same with my homemade pesto sauce. My son loves it, so I plant basil plants, and make bulk amounts of pesto sauce during the summer, and freeze it into the cubes. When it’s time to make pasta, I spend the time making the actual pasta, which isn’t a big deal because I know I already have my homemade sauce ready. In less than 20 minutes, I can have fresh homemade pasta on the table.” Tracy at Oh, The Things We’ll Make
“I have all my meals planned out and recipes handy. I go through my meals one day at a time writing down what I need to buy at the store on my grocery list. My sale items are already on there, and I don’t need anything I already have on my inventory list so I go through the recipe and write down anything I don’t have. Having my list divided into sections makes shopping easier as well.” Meagan at Growing Up Herbal
“When it comes to eating real food on a real budget, meal planning is vital. There are tons of planning methods out there and you can plan for one week or three months – simply pick one that you think will work and start doing it. Fill your plan with frugal meals your family loves and you can’t go wrong!” Tiffany at Don’t Waste the Crumbs
“Keep a “master list” of meals you and your family love that you can resort to while meal planning. I keep a list of tried and true main dishes, side dishes, and casseroles that I mix and match each week to keep things interesting but still simple for my busy schedule.” Kimberly at Turning it Home
“When buying a large quantity of things–be it at the grocery store, the specialty store or farmer’s market–always ask what kind of discount you can get for buying a large amount. You may be surprised! Last week I got great seasonal fruit at farmer’s market for $1 a pound! When buying a large amount of meat at the butcher counter, I’ve received a 20% discount. So, always ASK! All they can say is no. So, don’t be afraid.” Daja at The Provision Room
“Always keep homemade condiments and other easy staples well stocked. Sometimes just looking at them (like my BBQ sauce, mayo, breadcrumbs, 1,000 island dressing, etc) helps spark ideas while planning meals.” Jessica at Scratch Mommy
“Keep an on-going list of your family’s favorite meals. Circulate those meals often. I like to add one new meal a week or a recipe I plan on testing. No need to recreate a new meal every night when your family has favorites. I also keep it simple by having a designated night for “Mexican”, “Italian”, pizza night, etc. This allows me to keep regular meals from getting boring.” Kristin at Live Simply