You keep telling yourself each week that you want to plan your meals ahead + buy healthier foods at the grocery store…right?
You go food shopping + end up buying 15 items you don’t even need.
When it comes time to cook dinner you just open your fridge and stare. You can’t seem to find anything to make in the 30 minutes you have. The vegetables + fruit in your kitchen just sit there + rot throughout the week…
It is the same thing week in and week out. Not only is your diet not getting any healthier, but you’re wasting money.
Want to know what you are doing wrong?…
You don’t have a plan and routine in place!
Today, I am going to teach you two things:
- How to easily plan your meals for the week in advance
- How to create + follow a focused grocery list
Like everything in life, it all comes down to making a habit out of each of these.
The more you practice meal planning + focused grocery shopping, the easier it will be for you to eat healthier all week.
I have done these two things for about five years now. It has changed the way I eat and has saved me money every time I grocery shop!
Ready to learn how meal planning + focused grocery shopping can up-level your health journey? Keep reading!
Meal Planning + Focused Grocery Shopping
WHAT IS MEAL PLANNING?
Meal planning means taking the time in the beginning of your week to sit down + write out all of your meals before food shopping. You write out your breakfasts, snacks, lunches, and dinners that you plan on having to stay on track when it comes to eating healthy.
Some people choose to only plan out their lunches or dinners in advance. Many times, those two meals are where people often make unhealthy choices if not prepared.
Personally, I like meal planning all of my meals because it gives me less room for error. It makes it so I have less decisions to make throughout the week.
You have to know what your goal is, how you operate, + how committed you are to eating healthier! Like anything in life, the more planning you do in advance, the more success you will see in return.
Also, with meal planning you will find that you will save time, money, + energy in the long run!
KNOW YOUR PURPOSE
Yay! So now you have decided to take a healthy step in the right direction + practice meal planning.
Next, you need to decide how you are going to go about choosing what types of foods + meals you are going to have over the course of 7 days.
Here are some things to consider:
ARE YOU LOOKING FOR VARIETY?
There are some people that have trouble staying on-track with their diet when they get bored of the food they are eating. If this is you, you might want to have a few different options for each of your meals.
This one is definitely me when it comes to my dinners. I like to have 3-4 dinner options each week because I am a foodie. I throughly enjoy getting creative with my dinners by using different meats + flavors.
Just know that the more variety you have when meal planning, the more prep is going to be involved. Don’t like the time commitment of preparing a lot of meals, but want the variety? Focus on using less ingredients in each meal (which I explain below).
ARE YOU LOOKING TO SAVE TIME?
If you want to save time, you are going to want to keep your ingredients simple + repeat meals often. By simple, I mean only 3-5 ingredients for your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
- Breakfast – 2 eggs, cheese, + avocado
- Lunch – whole wheat wrap, tuna fish, geek yogurt, + celery
- Dinner – Chicken, salsa, red lentil pasta, sauce, + cheese
Meal planning like this makes prep time very fast + makes cooking easy and painless. Repeating meals also saves time. You might want to have the same breakfast + lunch every day and maybe 2 different dinners.
When it comes to meal prep, you can make many of the meals or parts of the meals in advance in batches. Again, this cuts a lot of your meal prep time out during the week.
ARE YOU LOOKING TO SAVE MONEY?
If you are looking to stay within a budget, you want to plan for that in advance by paying attention to the types of ingredients you buy.
To save money, it is easiest to take the simple + repetitive meal plan approach so adding up your budget is fast and simple.
Also, focus on high quality, lower-price options like these:
- Chicken instead of steak
- Shrimp instead of salmon
- Brown rice instead of lentil pasta
- Frozen veggies/fruit instead of fresh
*ps frozen veggies + fruit has higher nutritional values because they’re frozen at the point of highest nutrition!!
HOW TO FIND MEALS + RECIPES
Ok, so now you have an idea of how many meals you want to make. You know the ingredients you want to use + money you want to spend. The next step is to figure out what meals you want to make.
Some people just have a gift of thinking up creative recipes in a pinch! They enjoy putting together ingredients and trying out new recipes as if it is an art.
- Related: HEALTHY BACON WRAPPED CHICKEN
For many of us, inspiration is needed! Especially if you are new at the game of meal planning.
No worries! Here are a few ways you can find healthy, easy, + delicious meals:
Pinterest is my #1 go-to when it comes to finding healthy recipes.It just makes it so easy to find and save meals! I love how you can follow cooks or food bloggers who have tried +/or created delicious recipes that they give away for free.
Many times, too, you can see ratings of the recipes + how many people have tried them. The best part is that you can create different boards (i.e. breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, low carb, pasta alternatives, etc).
Definitely don’t discount social media when it comes to finding yummy recipes. On Instagram, you can follow cooks, magazines, + bloggers. Also, you can search for recipes using hashtags.
I love the feature where you can follow hashtags (i.e. #healthyrecipes #heathydinner #lowcarb) so you can discover people’s recipes in your feed without even following them!
Don’t forget, too, that Instagram allows you to save people’s posts + make collections (as if you’re making a cookbook!).
Once you discover blogs using Pinterest, Instagram, or even Google, be sure to subscribe to them! Once you are subscribed, many bloggers send out free recipes (+ even recipe books!) to their loyal subscribers. If they do sell recipe eBooks, bloggers often send their subscribers generous discounts + pre-launch prices, too!
I know non-digital things are becoming a thing of the past. But, when you do find someone who makes recipes that you love + enjoy making, invest in that person!
Sometimes you don’t want to have to pull out your phone or log on to your computer to find a recipe. Opening up a cookbook you keep in your counter can be a fun +relaxing experience!
Magazines are a great way to find yummy + healthy recipes, as long as you are using the right ones! I would focus on ones that are specially geared towards people looking to eat healthier + have a healthier lifestyle.
If you enjoy reading and following recipes on your phone, download and invest in some great recipe apps! They are hundreds out there. So, find the right one that works for your health concerns + taste buds.
Some popular ones are:
- Food Network
MAKE A PLAN
The last part of meal planning is to take the meals you have chosen + write them down!
Let’s be real, you are not going to remember (or stick to) your plan if you are trying to follow it by memory.
Here are 3 great options for writing down your meals:
- Use a printed meal plan menu each week.
- Use a meal menu dry erase board.
- Write down your meals in your planner.
Personally, options 1-2 work best because they can be placed right on your fridge. You can see it every time you are in the kitchen. I would at least do one of those.
I also like to do #3 to keep myself on track. I would only do #3 by itself if you are a planner-addict who lives by it throughout each day.
FOCUSED GROCERY SHOPPING:
WHAT IS FOCUSED GROCERY SHOPPING?
Focused grocery shopping means that you create an organized shopping list based on a pre-planned meal menu.
Instead of walking into a store blindly and just grabbing items you “think” you need or just crave in the moment, you focus on the ingredients you actually need.
When you practice focused grocery shopping, you will find you:
- Buy healthier foods
- Waste less (i.e. rots, expires…)
- Save money
- Stick to your diet
- Lose weight
Ready to learn how to start? Keep reading.
ORGANIZE YOUR LIST
To get in and out of the grocery store quickly + according to your plan, organization is absolute KEY. I would not recommend simply making a straight list of every item you need in a random order.
Why? When food shopping (in usually a giant store) you don’t want to have to repeat an aisle more than once. Plus, you will most likely accidentally skip an item or two.
Instead, organize your list in two ways:
- Group your items by type (meats, frozen, produce, etc)
- Order your grouped items by how you walk the store normally.
Let me clarify #2. When I walk into my grocery store, I typically walk around in this order: produce, meats, frozen, drinks, canned, + dairy. Therefore, that is how I organize my list. I never miss an item. I am in + out in under 20 minutes every time!
HOW TO STICK TO YOUR LIST
In order to stick to the list you made (which will allow you to cook the meals you planned), be sure to check off or cross over every item on your list.
But, what if you see a few items that you are either…
- Curious to try.
- Or are something you enjoy, but don’t necessarily “need.”
This is where I use the 5 item rule.
THE FIVE ITEM RULE
The 5 item rule means that I allow myself to buy five (or choose your number) items that stray from the list I brought with me.
When it comes to eating healthy + your own diet, YOU make the rules! Make sure they are rules that are realistic + that you can follow week after week.
Maybe 5 items is not the number for you. Or, maybe you will only let yourself have 2 “unhealthy” items and 3 “healthy” items that didn’t make your list. Up to you!
MAKE A PLAN
Ok, so you have your meal plan menu created. Now, it is time to put your focused grocery list together!
Here are two great and simple options that work:
- Fill out a printed focused shopping list.
- Create a digital focused shopping list.
I have used both options, but I personally have made a habit of using the digital focused shopping list.
When I meal plan, I sit with my computer + browse Pinterest for recipes that inspire me. I open NOTES on my computer and use the template I created (get yours here!) to write down my meals + create a focused grocery list.
When I get to the grocery store, all I need to do is open the NOTES section on my phone + my list is there!
Are you ready to finally create a healthy habit around meal planning + focused grocery shopping?
Step 1: Research meals and recipes.
Step 2: Complete a meal planning menu.
Step 3: Fill out a focused grocery shopping list.
Step 4: Go grocery shopping!