Hey there! Thanks for joining me for part two of my meal planning series, if you missed part one you can find it here. I recommend giving it a read first, as it sets the foundation for todays post!
Types of meal planners
So before I can tell you all how to master the use of your menu planners, I feel it is important to go over a few of the different types of planners and their various benefits; hopefully this will make it a little easier for you to select the planner that will best fit the needs of you and your family. Remember, at the end of the day it's all about finding your preference and going with it!
Separate vs. together
The first step in determining your ideal planner is to identify which location works best for you, in order to view the planner on a consistent basis. Do you want it as a separate page on your refrigerator? Or perhaps in the pantry? Electronically available via your phone or tablet? Maybe you're a little old school and prefer to keep it in a journal/day planner. The possibilities are virtually endless!
For me the ideal location is in my #BulletJournal (if you've never herd of the system check out a video for it here), I love it because I can see what the plan is for food at the same time as all my other plans, allowing me to schedule both with better synchronicity-basically it means I don't forget about my plans as much, I'm more efficient when cooking and the big one for me, I actually stick to the plan!
Daily vs. weekly and detailed vs. basic
Are you someone who prefers to view things from an incredibly detailed perspective, or would you rather see things as a general overview? Should a plan be laid out fill in the blank style, or should it allow for more creativity and freedom?
Meal planners are available in basically every shape or size, and with every imaginable feature and tracker. Again, for myself I prefer to use a weekly planner because having the big picture perspective makes balancing meals and snacks, as well as including/planning for special events and meals out a piece of cake. I also have found that having space for each meal/snack plus a little extra room for daily notes, allows me to identify changes to the plan or extras that were enjoyed. I can also then use it as a tool, going back to past weeks and reviewing what I thought of new recipes I had tried, and the eating habits I displayed over that week.
Go for the grocery list!
One of the single most convenient features I have ever used on a meal planner is a grocery list simply because of the ease it creates! Heres how it goes; you sit down and start planning meals for the week, as your thinking of favourites and looking at new ideas, the mind is constantly flooded with mini reminders like "I need more eggs for this recipe" or "the kids have sports that night, which means they will be hungry and I need something quick and easy!"… With the attached grocery list each time you get one of those mini reminders you can wright the ingredient(s) down, insuring you don't forget when finishing the list later!
All star planer tips
- Plan ahead, being sure to reference the families schedules to avoid meal conflict, and ensure food choices that will fit in with the demands of the day.
- Always include a mix of favourite foods and new recipes. This keeps it exciting and promotes new experiences, but still provides enough comfort and familiarity to keep everyone happy.
- Get the whole family involved! It makes the whole process infinitely more enjoyable, planning gets done faster, everyones happy with the meals for the week, and it reinforces positive habits (*I'll be sharing more on how to make this happen next week!*)
- Keep the plan in a visible place. Don't just make it and never look at it again! **I seriously can't stress this one enough people! It's the key to making or breaking it!**
- BE FLEXIBLE WITH IT AND DON'T BE AFRAID TO MAKE A FEW CHANGES MID WEEK!!!
- Add in all the things you ACTUALLY ate each day - like that chocolate bar, slurpee, or handful of nuts.
- Be honest! Lying on your planer is only lying to yourself (and whats the point to that?!), plus using a planner consistently allows you to identify eating trends/behaviours, you can actually learn something about yourself from it!
- Use it to plan ahead and save time when doing prep; if dinner needs onions too why not cut them when you're doing the ones for lunch? After all it only takes an extra minute. I like to say, if it takes less than 3-5 minutes (depending on your schedule of course) just do it, after all why put something quick and easy off just to make a chore of it for later?
- JOURNAL all over it and reference back to it regularly, thats how you create valuable data!
- Amazing meal? Note it and be specific! What about it was so amazing?
- Something made you feel bloated, nauseous, tired, overtly hot, itchy etc.? Again, note it, after all, its probably a good thing to know! (In some cases various food reactions may be caused by a low level allergy or intolerance *consult nutritional expert or family doctor to be sure*)
3 of my favourite free printable meal plans!