Meal planning is important. Not only is it the best way to ensure a healthy diet, but you will find it easier to lose weight and save money. When you plan out your meals, you can ensure you get all your nutrients, know precisely what you will eat each day, and only buy the food you need for the week. The offers and special treats are less tempting when you get to the store.
However, you need to make sure your kitchen is set up to help you with your meal planning. It needs to be designed to ensure you only buy the ingredients you need, and you can fully work out every meal you will enjoy for the week ahead.
Just what are you going to need for better meal planning? Here are seven items that are necessary for all kitchens.
A Selection of Recipe Books and Stand
Make sure you have a selection of recipe books to look through. You can also use your iPad or computer to do a little recipe research.
Meal planning can get boring if you keep doing the same things repeatedly. You are more likely to scrap a meal for the night and opt for a takeaway. Alternatively, you end up going to the store and looking for something else to quickly throw in the oven. In some cases, you can entirely skip a meal and just snack throughout the night instead.
Having a selection of recipe books will give you the chance to look through a variety of meals. You can look at specific main ingredient recipes, like pork, chicken, or even vegetarian. It is also possible to look get recipe books for specific meals or for definite diet plans that you are on.
Do not think you need to go out and buy special recipe books. You can do a lot of your research on the computer. Have a folder on your iPad with all your recipes stored, so you can quickly grab and read when you need them. Print out the favorites that you find and create your recipe folder for your needs.
Now you will need a stand in the kitchen. This should be big enough for your recipe books, folder, or the iPad that you are using. Put it somewhere that you can see the recipe while cooking but so that it stays out of the way of splashes from the frying pan or from contamination from the food you chop up. Store the recipe book stand in a cupboard throughout the day, only pulling it out when you need it.
A Binder to Track Your Meal Planning
Meal planning is not something to do one week and then forget about it. You want to be able to keep track of all your meal planning. It is important to have a binder that allows you to track everything you have made each week. This is also the place to note any changes you made to your plan from one week to another; after all, not everything quite works out the way that you initially intended.
A binder for the cupboard is the best way to track your meal planning. You can store all your tracking sheets for each month. Circle the ones that you loved the most and make a note of the dishes that your friends or family members did not like. Have a system to make sure you can create dishes that guests will be able to eat due to their dietary requirements or their preferences.
When you are at a loss for new meal planning ideas, you will be able to look back over your past plans. Get new and fresh ideas or find ways to adapt certain dishes that you’ve enjoyed (or not) in the past.
The binder can get big, so you will only want to keep six months to a year’s worth of meal plans. After that, make a note of the dishes that you have tried one off and what you thought of them. The best dishes will have already been used on other meal plans.
Have a section in your binder for the seasonal meals. Put together your Christmas dinner list, so you do not have to think about it every year. Put together a list of the treats you make for Halloween. Have a section for the party food you put on frequently.
Have a Fridge Magnet Planner
You want a planner that you can put in the fridge (or on the wall or cupboard door). This needs to be something that the whole family can see. It allows them to make the meal if you cannot, or they can help prepare things in advance when you are at work. By getting everyone involved, you will find it easier to stick to the meal plan.
The planner will also help you glance at the day to see what you are getting for the day. You can make sure you have all the ingredients before you go to work, picking them up on the way home if you need to. However, you should have everything from your weekly shop.
A good meal planner will also have a shopping list section. This is something you will be able to write ingredients you need for your next shop based on the meal plan you have created. You can then just tear off the shopping list and take it with you on the go.
If you choose not to have a family meal planner, make sure you have a shopping list for each trip. This is the key to avoid buying too much or ingredients that you do not need to buy.
Have a White Board for Notes
Ran out of milk? Need to get some more basil during your next shopping trip? Want to leave a note for a family member about your meal plan for the week? Make sure you have a whiteboard for the kitchen or on the way out of the door. This is the place to put all your notes and a last-minute shopping list after realizing you have run out of something you were not expecting to.
People will see the notes. They can pick up things for you, or they can make a note of something for you.
The whiteboard is something that is always reusable. Once an item has been bought, it can be rubbed off, and you can add a new item as and when you need one.
It is also worth having a whiteboard calendar in the house. This will allow you to keep track of any birthday parties or nights that some family members are not going to be in the house. You can track the busiest nights to make sure easier meals are planned. With the calendar, it is much easier to work ahead of the game and ensure everyone is included in the plan.
The calendar is also the place for hot meal days at school or school trips. You will know the days that you do not need to plan a packed lunch or when you need to make extra for whatever reason. There is no need to panic on the day of the trip that you have forgotten about something.
Containers for the Leftovers
You want to plan to make too much of a meal in your planning. That way, one night or two you have a leftover to fall back on. This is great when you have nights that you just do not want to cook. You can also opt for a potluck night or “leftover night” where you put the range of dishes left over from the week of cooking on the table. Everyone gets a little from the week, and he or she get a double dose of their favorites.
To make this possible, you will need containers. You can choose glass, plastic, or any other material that you prefer. Make sure the material is good for your fridge or freezer. Opting for glass will help to avoid chemicals transferring into your meals and will mean you can heat straight from the dish. Plastic containers are not usually oven safe.
Keep your containers stored together. Often, you end up with lids going missing.
Plastic containers are also good for your lunches. You can make sure people go to school or work with the dishes that have been planned for wherever they are.
The tubs can also be used for some pre-prep work. As soon as you get back from the store, prepare as much as you can in advance. Chop up the vegetables, so they are ready for your next meal. Make up your smoothies in advance, so you can just grab and go. There are going to be some meals you cannot prep in advance, but get as much done as you can. You will find it much easier when it comes to sticking to your meal plan since there is left to do on the night in question.
Get a Slow Cooker
One of your best friends in meal planning is the slow cooker. You can put it on before you go to work and your dinner is ready when you return. If people are hungry before you get home because your job requires long hours, they can serve their own, but you can have the same dish and not have to worry about reheating.
Make sure you invest in a slow cooker. It will be your third arm when it comes to cooking and planning in advance. You can make roast dinners, curries, stews, and so much more. Plan with the slow cooker in mind. Think about the days that you know you do not have time and look for slow cooker dishes that you can come home to.
Do not forget to stock up on slow cooker liners too. These are placed in the slow cooker, so all your ingredients go into them. They are like the oven bags that can help you infuse roast chickens with plenty of flavors.
You can pull out the liner at the end, and your slow cooker is still clean. It will just need a quick wipe down, and you will be able to put it away. There is no need to dread the cleaning of your slow cooker at the end of your meal! These are great if you want to use your slow cooker straight away for another meal the next night. You put in another liner, and you are ready to go!
Do Not Forget a Powerful Blender
Smoothies, soups, and many other dishes will require some blending. A powerful blender is the way to go. It will make your meal prepping a lot easier.
Opt for one that will chop up ice. Look out for a blender that can deal with any ingredient you want to use. You can also look for one that will help with the chopping of your vegetables. You will be able to speed up the process of the chopping, so you can get on with the cooking of your dishes.
When meal prepping goes faster, you will find it easier to stick to your meal plan. You will not think so much about the hard work and will be able to just get on with things.
If you only make smoothies for yourself, you can also stock up on something like the Nutri Bullet. This will make one portion of a smoothie, making sure you do not end up overeating by accident.
Stock Up on the Right Kitchen Items
Meal planning is more than just jotting down a few ideas and then making them on the night. You will need to have the right tools to plan and then store your prepped food or leftovers. The seven items above will help you do all this. You will be able to plan new and fresh dishes, get prepared early, and have the right tools to make planning a breeze.
Are you ready to start meal planning? Would you like to get into good habits? Stock up on the above, and you will find it easier.