We all know the benefits of creating a meal plan. I meal plan every week and have done so for years. I find that it makes my life simpler, helps me to save money, and reduces the number of times we eat out during the week. But there are still some weeks that I find sticking to our meal plan is harder than others. Here are some tips I use to help me stick to a meal plan.
How to stick to a meal plan
1. Determine your goal
Why did you create a meal plan? Are you trying to save money? Eat healthier? Reduce what’s for dinner stress? Giving a purpose to your meal plan helps you to stick to it when you are tempted to stray. Creating a meal plan is hard work and takes time. Straying from your meal plan undoes all of the efforts you have already put in.
2. Start small
If you have never meal planned before it can be a big adjustment and a bit overwhelming. Rather than planning out all 21 meal for the next week start small. Maybe to start off you only plan a couple of days a week or just plan out your dinners.
3. Keep mondays simple
Do we all dread Mondays? I know I do. Keep Monday’s meal simple. After two days off, being thrown back into the work-week can be tough. Plan a favorite meal that you could make with your eyes closed.
Try this great weeknight meal: Lemony Sheet Pan Chicken with Zucchini and Tomatoes
4. Check-in with your meal plan daily
Make sure the meals you have planned still match up with your schedule and make any necessary adjustments. Look ahead to the next few days and thaw any necessary ingredients. Most items take at least two days to thaw in the refrigerator.
5. Be flexible
Sometimes we are just not in the mood to eat what I had planned for dinner that night. I try to be flexible on which nights we eat which planned meal. If another meal planned for later in the week sounds better I make changes to my meal plan.
Life gets busy and schedules change. Sometimes I find myself short on time and can’t make the meal I had planned for that night. I like to have a stash of meals in the freezer for those nights when all I have time to do is reheat something.
If you are always super strict and don’t give yourself some leeway you will never be able to stick to your meal plan. I like to think of it as being similar to cheat days when you are following a diet.
6. Know your family’s eating and cooking style
Have realistic expectations. Planning to have something for dinner will not magically make you enjoy cooking or like an ingredient, you have always hated.
Stick to meals you know your family will eat. If your family doesn’t like kale don’t plan to have a kale salad for dinner. Just because a food is “popular” doesn’t mean you have to like it or eat it. If you love cooking and experimenting in the kitchen then go ahead and plan an elaborate meal or two. But if cooking just isn’t your thing keep your meals simple.
7. Plan for leftovers
Most nights we have leftovers. Either eat them for lunch or plan a leftover night when everyone helps to clean out the refrigerator by eating leftovers for dinner.
8. Keep it fun
Listen to your favorite music or podcast. Make it a family event. Ask your family to help in the kitchen. I find that when everyone is busy with a task the conversation flows easily. This is one of my favorite times to check in with my family and catch up.
Reward yourself at the end of the week for sticking to your meal plan. Make your family’s favorite meal or a special dessert. You could also plan a meal out that sticks to your goals.
Most importantly remember that to err is human. When you do deviate from your meal plan it isn’t the end of the world and you can always start fresh the next day.
What are some of your favorite tricks for sticking to a meal plan?