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Hilal Her

Meal Planning for Beginners

February 2024

Meal planning is simply asking what is for lunch or dinner once for the entire week or longer rather than every day. It also entails shopping for the ingredients and preparing ahead of time to make the cooking process convenient. Meal planning involves making decisions about your meals in advance, taking into account factors such as your schedule, food preferences, etc.

Meal planning is the easiest habit to cultivate, and for those who have always practiced it, it likely comes effortlessly. It considerably simplifies the life of the individual in charge of managing the kitchen. Undoubtedly, meticulous meal planners may find the idea of not pre-planning their family’s meals before going to the grocery shop extremely intimidating. Nevertheless, if you are an individual who regularly plans meals, you likely would not be perusing this piece. Alternatively, you may be doing so to ascertain if there is any new information that you need to look into. Regardless, mastering the art of meal planning is a highly beneficial talent to cultivate. This article aims to provide tactics and tips to enhance your proficiency in meal planning and attain mastery of this ability.

First of all, we will explain why meal planning is important. Meal planning is crucial because it can simplify your life. In today’s world, we all lead fast-paced, busy lives, and there is plenty to consider without making hasty decisions about what to eat three times a day, seven days a week. These choices significantly impact your emotions and can add a sense of unease to your day, even if you do not fully realize it; most importantly, they help you save time. Meal planning offers numerous advantages that can contribute to a more convenient, stress-free, and healthier lifestyle for you and your loved ones.
Eliminates Indecisiveness
There is no greater source of frustration than opening all the kitchen cabinets to assess the available ingredients, hoping to be struck by inspiration regarding what to cook, only to find that something else needs your attention.
The time devoted to contemplating what to prepare for dinner might instead be utilized for cooking the meal, allowing for additional time afterwards to engage in other desired activities. Having a meal plan allows for a more automated approach, as the cognitive effort and preparation have already been taken care of, ensuring that you have the necessary ingredients and time to prepare the desired meal.
Saves Time
Meal planning will eliminate minutes squandered, going over possible choices just before each meal. When you know what you will eat and how long the cooking will take, you are open to making and partaking in your meals more enjoyably.
Saves Money
Meal planning enables you to exercise greater control over your expenditure. As you become more acquainted with the meal planning process, you will have a solid comprehension of the cost of each meal. You will be able to identify areas where you can potentially reduce expenses. By purchasing the necessary ingredients for your planned meals, you can save money on ingredients that may go unused before they expire. This practice helps you save money in the long run and lessens waste.
You Get More Variety
Contrary to the commonly held notion that meal planning is a monotonous way to eat, it can actually promote diversity in one’s diet, both in terms of menu and nutritional value. Documenting your weekly or monthly food intake can help you identify recurring unhealthy behaviors that you may wish to modify. Additionally, it can motivate you to experiment with new dietary choices or vary your eating routine more frequently.
Organized Kitchen
Preparing meals can be a much more enjoyable experience when you have a sense of calm and organization. Meal plans effectively reduce kitchen clutter and provide clear instructions on tasks that need to be completed. Knowing the ingredients you will be using in advance allows you to plan and make necessary preparations, such as freezing ingredients and prepared components or starting a slow meal early in the day. 
Strategies for Meal Planning
It is worth considering now if you have hesitated to start meal planning due to a lack of guidance. Here are four effective meal-planning tactics that have proven to be successful.
Plan a Whole Week
One practical approach to organizing your meals is to dedicate some time to creating a comprehensive plan for the upcoming week. If you have free time on the weekend, you can effortlessly create a seven-day meal plan, including breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. This approach is suitable for a wide range of lifestyles and budgets. 
Before diving into a whole week’s meal plan, however, assessing the food you already have on hand is wise. Take a thorough inventory of your pantry, fridge, and freezer to assess what items you currently have or need to prioritize using. These items can serve as a starting point for creating delicious meals.
Keep a Grocery List
Make sure to have a notepad and pen in a convenient location. When you finish using grocery items, jot them down on the list. By following this method, you can ensure you will notice everything during your trip to the supermarket. Make sure to create a comprehensive list of all the ingredients you will need for the meals you have planned for the week, whether you prefer using a traditional paper list or a convenient app. Consider your frequency and desire to shop, consider your meal plan, and assess the ingredients you possess versus the items you still require. 
Selection of Recipes
With meal prep, you can select convenient and uncomplicated meals for work days, while for weekends or special occasions, you can opt for more intricate and elaborate recipes. One may strategize to prepare more substantial meals during the weekend, yielding leftovers for subsequent days of the week, resulting in additional time and cost savings.
Batch Cooking and Freezing
Batch cooking involves preparing a significant quantity of food all at once. You can efficiently plan and prepare your meals in advance through batch cooking. This strategy involves following the steps of traditional meal planning, which include selecting meals, making a list, and shopping. Afterwards, you dedicate focused time to preparing meals. This method of meal planning requires more initial effort, but it ultimately saves time by consolidating most of the meal preparation into one session. Maximize your kitchen’s efficiency by preparing multiple dishes after grocery shopping. For optimal results with this method of meal planning, opt for recipes that can be easily stored in the freezer, such as soups, casseroles, and egg dishes. There are numerous benefits of meal prepping in advance, which can help make the most of any extra time available. One important aspect is the preparation of ingredients, such as cutting vegetables, marinating proteins, or pre-cooking grains. This preparation in advance will make the cooking process faster and more convenient. Another great suggestion is to pre-pack lunches or portion-out snacks for the week.
Exploring Meal Planning Apps and Tools
These days, there’s almost nothing that you can’t accomplish with an app. A surge of online tools has emerged to assist individuals with hectic schedules to organize their weekly meal plans. If you are new to meal planning (or want to simplify the process), using an app can be a great way to stay organized with minimal effort.
Various apps offer different meal-planning features, e.g., Cozi provides the convenience of storing recipes, creating grocery lists, and planning meals using a digital calendar, while Yummly offers a wide range of recipes that allows you to personalize your meal plan according to your dietary needs, preferences, and the ingredients and cuisines you enjoy.

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