The Everyday Girl Guide to: Nutrition (Menu Planning)

April 17, 2012

Want to save money, save time, reduce stress AND lose some weight?

Plan your meals.

Planning your meals isn’t all that difficult, either.  All it takes is about two hours a week to start (as little as 30 minutes once you get going) and a few simple guidelines.

1.  Get some sort of planner.  I always did my menus in Excel and just printed them myself, but any large-box calendar will work; just divide each day into three meals.

2.  (This will help reduce time in the future)  Make a list of some of you or your family’s favorite breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks.  Don’t worry about ingredients; just get a main dish.  List at least seven in each category, but more is actually better in this case.

For example: Breakfasts might have oatmeal, egg sandwiches, yogurt, and french toast.  Lunches might have soup, sandwiches, salad, and tacquitos.  Dinners might have pasta, meatloaf, chicken stirfry, and fish sticks.  Snacks might include oatmeal cookies, apples, ice pops, and rice cakes.

3.  Figure out which days have time constraints.  If you have soccer practice for two kids on Wednesdays from 4-6 pm, you don’t want a time-consuming dinner prep.  If you have a run-out-the-door morning on Mondays, you might want to do yogurt.

4.  Fill in each day (for either a week at a time or a month at a time) with a main dish.  Monday breakfast: yogurt; Monday lunch: PB&J sandwich; Monday dinner: Crockpot chili; Monday snack(s): red apple; rice cakes.

5.  You can stop here if you want and just wing-it with sides, but if you really want to lose weight and have a balanced meal, you’re going to want to fill-in the sides:

a.  Every breakfast should have a protein, a serving of fruit or vegetables, a serving of whole grains, and a dairy (which can sometimes double as the protein).  For the “yogurt” on Monday, you could also have a cinnamon bran muffin (whole grain), blueberries and slivered almonds to mix in, and 8 oz of juice.

b.  Every lunch should have a protein, 2 servings of fruits and/or vegetables, a serving of whole grains, and a dairy.  For the “PB&J sandwich”, you have peanut butter for protein and can use whole wheat bread for the grains.  Toss in a serving of carrot sticks and 8 oz of your favorite veggie juice smoothie (2 servings of veggies) and a small handful of cheese cubes (dairy) and maybe have 8 oz of water.

c.  Every dinner should have a protein, 2 servings of vegetables, a serving of whole grains, and a dairy.  For the crockpot chili, make sure you put veggies like green and red peppers into the pot at the last minute, have a side salad, piece of homemade cornbread, and glass of milk.

d.  If you only have one snack, it should be fruit- or vegetable-based (the opposite of breakfast works well) AND have a small protein and glass of water.  So have a handful of pea pods with hummus and a glass of water.  If you’re having a second snack (keep that metabolism ramped up!), then you can be a little more liberal (oatmeal cookie and some grapes, maybe?).

Viola!  You have up to four weeks of meals all planned out.  Each night, see what you need to defrost or prep for the next day.  Then each day just follow the menu and you’ll reduce stress, eat better, and save money.

Still don’t feel like going through all the effort to make menus?  Let me do all the work!  One personalized month of menus, including grocery check-off list for each week, for just $50… or sign up for a four-month  subscription (4 months of menus, delivered month-by-month) for just $100 ($25/month).  Email for details.

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