Meal planning is touted as a direct route to eating more healthfully, spending less money and saving some time — and it certainly can be. But for many us, it’s more of an annoying chore than a helpful activity. That’s because in addition to being time-consuming, “meal planning” just sounds strict. It doesn’t seem to leave room for creativity and spontaneity — especially when you’re also attempting to craft meals that are nutritionally sound and budget-friendly.
But there’s another way to meal plan that doesn’t involve preparing stacks of identical Tupperware containers for the week ahead. I’ve been doing it for years without even realizing it. After raising three boys and figuring out how to stock my bustling household, I had to keep in mind what was going on that week. Was I having company? How many nights were we eating out? What meals could I cook once and then repurpose the leftovers? So while I don’t follow a specific recipe, I do picture how individual ingredients will morph into meals. In other words, I picture how the ingredients will work together to create delicious meals without much waste.
I’m not the only one who meal plans without planning. Here are 10 tips from my dietitian nutritionist friends on how to turn a time-intensive chore into a time-saving (and almost fun) weekly activity: