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Meal Planning 101

If you’re new to meal planning, deciding what to make can be one of the most overwhelming parts. It can also be the reason so many people give up feeling frustrated and turn to convenience food.

That's why I'm sharing some of my simple meal planning tips to help you get started! Because the truth is meal planning can save you time, money and calories.

And when you're armed with a few simple meal planning basics, it becomes a whole lot easier!

How to meal plan for success

It all starts with a plan:

First, have a good look in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and take stock of what you already have.

See anything that absolutely needs to be used in the next week before it goes bad? Great! You’ve got an idea of at least one ingredient you'll be using using in your upcoming meals. It’s easier to create some structure to your weekly meal plan when you have a few items in mind to base some of your meals around.

Next, it’s time to get planning. If you’re totally stumped for recipe ideas and inspiration, go online and find some ideas that get you excited about what to cook (and eat!). Pinterest is one of my favorites for this because you can type in just about any ingredient and get all kinds of great recipe ideas, from basic to the more complex. Create a few boards of a few of your favorite recipes and pin a few that you'd like to try later. Next time you're heading to the store you have a clear idea of what you'll need to grab to make up a few of those tasty dishes.

Going forward, it's especially helpful to keep your kitchen full of healthy staples that can be used in a variety of meals. This includes lean meats, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and whole grain bread, and hearty staples such as beans, legumes, lentils and protein powders, flours, nuts, herbs, spices and seasonings, baking ingredients and dairy products.

Some of these ingredients you'll need to re-purchase regularly and others you can purchase every so often in bulk when they're on special or at a warehouse store (like Costco) where the price is typically better when purchased in lager quantities.

Pro tip: keep a running list on your refrigerator or kitchen counter and jot down any items as you begin to run low so that you'll never risk running out!

Theme nights for simple meal planning

Now, what to make?

A simple tip to help you narrow down your meal options: theme nights!

The idea is really simple: pick a certain day of the week and a theme to go with it. This can be anything from a type of food to a meal that includes a specific ingredient. For example, Tuesday could be tacos or tex-mex night or Thursday could be fish, for example.

Once you’ve nailed down your theme night(s), you can get creative with the types of meals you want to make. And you can make good use of the ingredients you already have in your home - no special trips to the store required!

This works really well if you have kids in the home as they’ll love the idea of something to look forward to, especially when it includes some of their favorite foods! Monday pasta night? Try a cauliflower mac recipe or whole grain pasta. Taco Tuesday? Use ground turkey ad try whole grain wraps or go with a lettuce bowl. Another added bonus of theme nights is it makes it easy to get the whole house involved in the planning and prep. Ask for suggestions and have them help look for fun new recipes and divvy up the ingredient list.

If you live on your own, having theme nights can take some of the stress out of weekly meal planning by keeping it super simple, especially if you have particular meals or ingredients that you’d love to include in your rotation on a regular basis.

And if you get bored of certain themes or struggle to find new inspiration on a particular week, you can always swap things out and switch it up to keep things fresh. The goal is to keep it simple, satisfying and fun!

Are you tired of starting over every Monday, hopping from diet to diet, wondering if you'll ever get it "right" so that you can lose the weight and become the best version of you? I’ve got you friend! Come join me inside my FREE women’s-only Facebook community: Eat Better with Coach Mindy. It's for busy women like you who are ready to lose weight, gain energy, get healthy and fit -- without restrictive diets or punishing food rules.

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