How to Save Time and Plan Healthy Meals

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I used to be intimidated by meal planning because I assumed it was complicated and time consuming—especially if I wanted variety in my meals. Over time, I’ve learned a straightforward way to do it that actually saves me a lot of time and money because I shop and cook just one day a week. You don’t need fancy binders or a lot of money to plan healthy meals for yourself and your family. Today, I’m showing you my method of easy meal planning that will save you time and help you eat well, even when life gets hectic.

1) Take Inventory

The very first thing I do is write down everything I have in my fridge, freezer, and pantry that needs to be used up this week. To make this easy, get into the habit of putting a date sticker on everything. For example, if I have a container of leftover chickpeas that didn’t make it into a dish, I’ll look for a recipe to use those up.

2) What’s On-Sale & In-Season?

Once I have a good idea of what I have on hand at home, I check out my local grocery flyer or apps like Salewhale and reebee that let you search for any store flyer and quickly scan what’s on sale. To save even more money, buy local produce in-season! If I find Ontario-grown cauliflower in my store flyer and canned diced tomatoes are on a 2-for-1 sale, that gives me the idea to use my chickpeas in a cauliflower curry. Yum!

3) Keep It Simple

Forget trying to plan every single meal for the week. I personally like some flexibility in my day-to-day food choices, so I only plan dinners for the week and make use of the leftovers for lunches. For grab-and-go snacks during the week, I’ll make muffins from what I have in my pantry and buy some apples or grapes for simplicity.

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4) Find Recipes by Ingredient

The easiest (and cheapest) way to find recipes that will use up what you already have on hand is to search by ingredient. You don’t need to own a single cookbook! There are plenty of websites like allrecipes.com, bettycrocker.com, or tasty.co that allow you to search for recipes by ingredient.

5) Batch Cook

When it comes time to cook, make big batches of dishes that freeze well for leftovers like soups, chilli, burgers, enchiladas, and casseroles. I like to make a few things at once to save even more time, like putting a big pot of brown rice on while I cook chilli in the slow cooker and make energy balls. Even if you’re eating for one, cook for 4-5 so you have ready-made meals later in the week. You’ll always have a great meal on hand when you need it while also spending less time overall in the kitchen.

Stay tuned for next week’s post where I’ll be sharing tips for healthy grocery shopping on a budget!

Ryan Stallard