We’ve all been there: it’s 4 PM, work is winding down and the dreaded, “what’s for dinner” dilemma creeps in. By five, the grocery store is packed with other shoppers, also unprepared to answer the dinner question, wandering the aisles looking for food items that may work well together but won’t take hours to cook because we’re all tired and hungry and not in any mood to really cook.
It’s not hard to imagine how the absolution of the four o’clock dilemma could improve our lives in a myriad of simple, yet important ways. With proper meal planning, quick dinners turn into healthy, balanced meals. This can lead to better health and free time to spend on things that are more productive than panicking in the aisles of the frozen section, like going to the gym or working on those long put-off projects. Time becomes manageable and stress lessens.
With the New Year comes new resolutions, and for many of us that means resolving to improve our health, nutrition and time management. Meal planning is a simple yet effective way to achieve these goals and more.
Benefits of Meal Planning
- Can save you money (check out Savories Weekly and subscribe to our email list for weekly deals)
- Contributes to a more nutritionally balanced diet
- Saves time in the long run
- Reduces stress as it helps you avoid last minute “what’s for dinner” dilemma
Getting Started With Meal Planning
With a little foresight and the right tools, meal planning can be easy and fun. The first step is getting the household on board. Speak with your housemates, partner or family and come up with a list of dinners that everyone can agree on.
If you and your family value consistency, consider making recurring recipes part of your weekly menu. For example, many people like to incorporate “meatless Mondays,” or “whole-grain Wednesdays” into their plan. Weekly meals become routines that everyone looks forward to, and they take some of the mental labor out of meal planning.
Tools and Resources for Meal Planning
Put together a monthly calendar or spreadsheet with your meal ideas, recipes and shopping lists. You may find it beneficial to invest in a few tools as well, like quality food storage containers (we love Stasher Bags and Bowls) and labels. An air fryer, or instant pressure cooker are other popular cooking tools that people find helpful for quick meal preparation.
Pro Tip: Be sure to check out our recipes page for inspiration. Our database is full of healthy recipes to fit any diet. You can choose to simply browse the recipes, or use the filters to find those that meet your nutrition requirements and preferences.
Tips for Successful Meal Planning
Once you have a menu planned, write your list and choose a day of the week to go grocery shopping. If you feel overwhelmed by the idea of planning and shopping for an entire week’s worth of food, start small by making a menu for only 2 or 3 days of the week, leaving the other days open for a little spontaneity, like picking up a pizza.
Pro Tip: Check out items in our Gourmet Takeaway section with the “Make me a Meal” stickers for fast and easy Chicken Dinner Deal for 4 plans.
Make larger portions of meals and save the leftovers for the next day, or freeze them for the following weeks and months ahead. Be sure to label each container with the contents and date. Saving meals for long-term use helps you avoid “left-overs fatigue,” a phenomena that happens when family members get bored of eating the same dish multiple nights in a row. Symptoms include excessive whining and grumbling at dinner time.
Guide for Safe Food Storage
Understanding proper food storage is essential for successful meal planning. Our Chef team gives the following advice for keeping food fresh and safe.
In the refrigerator:
- 2-3 days: cooked fish (fish, like house guests start to smell after 3 days)
- 3-4 days: cooked ground beef or poultry, cooked whole meats, soups and stews
- 3-4 days: cooked beans and hummus, hard boiled eggs
- 5-7 days: chopped vegetables (in air-tight container)
In the freezer:
- 2-3 months: soups, stews and cooked beans
- 3-6 months: cooked meat and poultry (ground or whole)
- 6-8 months: berries and chopped fruit in freezer bags
This year, make a resolution to avoid the four o’clock “what’s for dinner” dilemma. Save time, money and achieve a well-balanced diet with meal planning. Remember to get the whole household involved, get organized and have some fun planning meals in the New Year.