Weekly meal preparation concept with raw food ingredients in chalk-drawn lunch boxes on green background. Prep meals plan for the week. Healthy meals

The wide and delicious world of meal planning looks overwhelming from the outside. It seems to require an organized personality and a culinary degree to master, and it can be an intimidating undertaking.

If meal planning feels like it’s for elite foodies and lifestyle influencers, rest assured it’s not as hard as you would think. Meal planning can be a time commitment, but overall it will save you time and money, and make it easier to implement a well-rounded diet. 

Meal planning can become more complex as you establish a rhythm and grow increasingly efficient, but starting a healthy meal plan is within reach for everyone. If you’re wondering how to meal plan, look no further. Here is a brief low-down on how to start meal-planning, as well as 6 tips to meal plan like a pro.

What is meal planning, and how do I start?

Meal planning consists of picking out meals (and preparing them) in advance to save you time later. You’ll pick out recipes, shop accordingly and have most of the meal ready to go by the time you’re hungry so you can get food on the table faster with less stress.

With meal planning, you’ll be shopping once a week and planning dinners for six or seven nights. You can meal plan breakfasts as well, and your lunches are already covered if you buy enough ingredients for leftovers (though some people prefer to make different recipes for lunch, which is also fine).

1. Embrace the planning stage

There are two aspects of meal planning you can’t skip: the meal and the plan. There is no escaping a little preparation to make the process work and to get that delicious platter on the table. Even if you’re not a planner by heart, you’ll learn to love this stage as your meal prep pays off and you wind up with more free time than ever.

Start by simply scrolling online for recipes or pulling out cookbooks. Meal planning apps can also help you to choose from a variety of meals, diet meal plans and ones with overlapping ingredients (we’ll get to this later). Write down a masterlist of ingredients for the week or make a meal plan template. 

2. Set aside the time

The Kitchen recommends this strategy: a weekend model that leaves your busier weeknights more open without compromising delicious meals. Choose your meals throughout the week but have them nailed down by Friday, shop on Saturday and prep on Sunday. 

Schedule about four hours for the whole meal planning routine: 30 minutes to plan, 60 minutes to shop, 120 minutes for meal prep and 30 minutes for clean up. At first, you may need more time to plan, but the process becomes more efficient as you progress.

3. Choose recipes that share ingredients

Smart shopping for a healthy meal plan will mean that you’re not buying food that isn’t required for meal planning, so that you’re not wasting food. Even if you love broccoli, having it in your fridge isn’t going to do any good if it’s not part of this week’s recipes.

Finding recipes that use the same ingredients also saves you time in prep. Cut up three vegetables for the whole week, instead of three for every meal. 

4. Find inspiration throughout the week

Use a few minutes of spare time every day to build up a repertoire of recipes you want to try. Narrow it down as you go, and you could have all your recipes selected by the time your planning day rolls around. All you’d need to do in that time is make the grocery list.

5. Organize your prep

Organizing your workspace for prepping food both saves time and minimizes clean up. For example, use a cutting board for all fruits and veggies first, and then use it for any raw meat to prevent contamination and consolidate dishes. Meal preparation saves you from stacks of dirty dishes throughout the week, but careful planning can also save you dishes on prep day.

6. Cook what can be cooked beforehand

Largely depending on the meals you’re hoping to have for the week, you can get a big chunk of your cooking done early on so your meals will be quicker and easier on weeknights. Cook rice on Sunday to use for Monday’s dinner, or bake a chicken to use for chicken tacos and lunch sandwiches later on. This is often called “batch cooking.” Preparing these ingredients ahead of time can also help you to identify potential excess, and how to incorporate it throughout the week.

Meal planning like a pro is within reach for everyone. It takes a little time and patience, but it gets easier with every week. Meal planning is its own reward, with delicious meals, saved time and money and the ease of a diet meal plan.When you embark on living a sober life, you have the freedom to seek out new hobbies and passions. Leaving substances behind gives you more time and energy to build a healthy lifestyle, and meal planning may be one of the most rewarding skills to learn. Check out Silvermist Recovery, an addiction treatment center in Western Pennsylvania that emphasizes the healing of the whole person. Call  (724) 268-4858 today to get started working toward recovery today.