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5 MEAL PLANNING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS

Stop wasting that $$ on take-out!

I’ve always been a planner. I’m a type A vina for sure. But… I’m finding that it’s nice to have a flexible meal plan, one that is sort of a “no plan” menu.

What I mean by that is, I do like to sit down at the beginning of the month and go through my favorite cookbook or my binder of accumulated recipes. I pencil them into my calendar printable, and we do one big grocery trip at the beginning of the month for all the non-perishables.

But do we actually STICK to the plan? Nope. Because the truth is… vinas have cravings! When the weather is cold, I want a grilled cheese sandwich. Or when I’m feeling down, I just want some freaking chicken fingers and fries, or macaroni and cheese.

So… if you need meal planning and you hate planning, here are some tips for you.

CONSIDER TRYING A MEAL SUBSCRIPTION BOX FOR A WEEK OR TWO

If you really hate the idea of sitting down to actually plan your meals, think about it! I wouldn’t say they are great for an actual replacement to meal planning, but if you are constantly ordering in or eating out instead of making your own food, this will save you money. It’ll also give you a more realistic meal plan when you’re starting out.

This is great if you have literally no experience or interest in planning your meals. It makes it SUPER easy, and it’s flexible—you can choose which recipes you want to try, they deliver the ingredients and the recipe book to your door, and you can cook them on whichever day of the week you please.

Plus, a lot of them have excellent discounted trials for the first week!

Here is my mini meal planning service review for the one we’ve tried:

HelloFresh – LOVED it. It’s definitely more expensive than cooking yourself, but you are paying for the convenience since they make it so easy. Even if you aren’t a total newbie with meal planning, it might be fun to try! We tried it when we were in frantic moving mode, and it was SUCH a lifesaver. And we kept all the recipe cards so we can make them again on our own! HelloFresh is available in Canada and the US.

Chef’s Plate – They are Canadian, and I don’t think they deliver anywhere in the US, but if you’re in Canada they are a good option. I did find the food didn’t stay fresh for as long as HelloFresh’s food did, though. And I was a little disappointed to find that their recipes included ingredients like “spice mix” that would make it hard to replicate later on, even if you keep the recipe card. Still, worth giving it a shot!

GoodFood – Also Canadian. The recipes we tried from GoodFood have been phenomenal. The food lasts quite a while—there was one recipe we made the day after the meat’s best before date, and everything was still delicious. The vegetables weren’t too gross, so it turned out awesome. They also have excellent customer service, though it is a bit slow.

I would say my favorite was HelloFresh, but GoodFood is right up there!

TRY GIVING EACH DAY OF THE WEEK A THEME

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For example, you could do Mexican on Mondays, pasta on Tuesdays, stir-fry on Wednesdays, vegetarian on Thursdays, and maybe a comfort food/free-for-all on Fridays. That gives you some structure, but then you can choose exactly what meal you feel like at the time.

Keep staples for those meals on hand, so that you can actually make them when you feel like. So for pasta, keep the pasta and some sauces around, some rice for your stir-fries, and your choice of meats and veggies. (You could get ground beef and chicken and just freeze it, so you always have it.)

Weekends can be even more flexible—you can use what you have left to make whatever you want, or just keep going from your categories.

MAKE BREAKFAST AND LUNCH EASY

Protip for meal planning when you hate planning: make it so you have to plan as little as possible. Keep a variety of options on hand for breakfast and lunches, and then you only really need to plan dinner.

We usually keep instant oatmeal, bagels, and cereal around for breakfast, and choose whatever we feel like in the morning. On weekends we often make egg sandwiches with turkey bacon (or regular bacon, low-sodium).

For lunch, my partner takes deli meat sandwiches because his job doesn’t really allow for him to reheat leftovers… and I usually do just take leftovers.

For snacks, we usually have Clif bars and boil some eggs to keep around for a filling snack (that protein keeps you full longer, and it doesn’t take long to do it). We also have rice crackers, veggies and dip, and trail mix (the ones with M&Ms of course!) You could do whatever you like.

Aaaand, boom! We barely have to plan the majority of our meals. No plan menu FTW!

KEEP REALISTIC LAST-MINUTE OPTIONS AROUND AT ALL TIMES

By this, I mean literally just frozen pizzas, instant noodles of some kind, and frozen chicken fingers and fries. (Whatever works for you.)

That way if you’re in a pinch, or you’re feeling lazy, you’ve got something to eat that is SO EASY you don’t have to try… and you’ll prevent yourself from ordering in every single time. Save that moolah!

So there you have it! 5 ways you can meal plan when you hate planning.

This post was originally published on FlightandScarlet.com.

Download the Hey! VINA app to find other meal-prepping vinas with even more tips!

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