A Beginners Guide On How To: Meal Plan Smarter

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It's a new year, and you're ready to get your butt in gear on all things health and wellness, but working out 3-5 times per week has you busy and extra hungry, your kids are gearing back up for heading back to school and their menu requests for lunch are a tad out of control, and although your spouse may love the fact that you are taking this ” healthy lifestyle stuff” by storm, they aren't totally on board about cutting out the extra carbs and sweets. Well, Mama, I'm here to simply this stuff for you!

You have bigger fish to fry, and the last thing you need to be worrying about is what you and the fam are going to eat that week. I'm here to give you my 5 favorite ways to plan healthy and affordable meals on a strict budget, and with time restrictions.

1.Map It out.

Before I step foot in a grocery store I have a written plan of attack. The plan takes 20 minutes of my time, which in the grand scheme of things is nothing. My plan includes full breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner meals for each day of the week. Having a plan leaves little room for junk food, impulse buys, and for tantrums at the store. Everyone has the understanding that you came to the store with a solid mission, and you plan on leaving the store with that mission completed (you little Mama spy).

2.Diversify Your Protein Sources.

When the majority of people think of protein they think of meat. Meat can be hella expensive, especially if you buy grass-fed or organic meat. Instead of making meat your centerpiece opt for having it play a smaller part in the dinner rotation. Opt-in for using beans or legumes or nuts/seeds/grains as your powerpoint. For example, you could have 1 small salmon fillet, on a bed of brown rice, and 3 bean salad. You save money by not having large quantities of meat in the meal, and you get a well-rounded source of protein.

3.Buy Fruits and Veggies that are in season.

First of all buying in-season fruits and veggies guarantee that you are going to have some tasty and ripe foods, but you are also likely to find those seasonal items on sale. Squash in the fall, cherries in the summer… you get my point.

4.Cook everything on 1-2 days of the week.

When my family finally decided to pick Sunday as our cooking day and prepared everything from breakfast to snacks, we stopped having those ”oh crap, what are we gonna eat...let's get takeout moments”. We knew what we had, what was available, controlled the ingredients that we put in, and even the clean environment in which the meal was prepared. By planning out healthy meals in advance filled with foods that my family likes, no one is tempted to break out the wallet for extras.

6.Teach the Fam the Importance of Hydration.

Many times people aren't truly hungry when they feel like they are. They are usually either dehydrated or bored. So we end up up spending way more on food that eventually will go bad, or we overeat because we aren't hydrating properly and we are eating from habit. Make sure that you stock up in plenty of water. Get creative and infuse the water with fruits and herbs, or even have the family choose their favorite smoothies. That gives you an excuse to use the fruit that you bought, gives everyone energy, and may delay boredom eating.

Tell me how you save money when you shop! I'd love to feature your ideas in a future blog post.

Ashley Vipond