Planning is key for a busy person. As a Registered Dietitian who works a lot of hours, I find it helps a great deal if I plan my meals and write up a grocery list once/week.  After a long day at work, I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so what works best for me is to cook ahead on the weekends and also plan some quick and easy meals during the week. Also, during the winter months, I primarily bring leftovers to work for my lunch because I would rather eat a warm meal for lunch than my usual sandwich during the warmer months.

7 Dietitian Approved Meal Planning Tips

1. See What You Have On Hand to help with planning

Do a quick inventory of what you have on hand in your pantry and refrigerator and see if you get inspired to cook something with ingredients on hand.



2. Keep It Seasonal when you are planning

Think about what fruits and vegetables are in season and plan your meals around seasonal foods.  Don’t forget our infographic to help you! Or you can check out this blog with seasonal recipes for the spring and fall.
Ask your dietitian for our fruit and vegetable infographic!

3. Variety

Think of what you had last week and try to switch it up. I aim to vary the protein sources, veggies, and starches in each plan I make.  Last week the plan included cheese burgers, one pan balsamic chicken, and a chicken and broccoli crescent braid. Each week I try to pick 2 tried and true recipes that my family will like, along with one new recipe to try out!

Rotisserie Chicken

chicken and broccoli braid (photo credit Klara Knezevic)

4. Try Some Categories

Think of easy to remember categories to help you plan meals such as Meatless Monday, Tofu or Taco Tuesday, Fish Friday, Slow Cooker Sunday and plan your meals accordingly.

Planning your meals makes it easier to go grocery shopping because you will know exactly what you need to buy!

5. Practicality

Think about the plans you have this week: work happy hours, sporting events, late nights at the office, and appointments. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays are my late-night work days, so those have to be quick meals to prepare. Typically I make something on Sunday to reheat on Monday, an easy Tuesday meal that my husband can put together, and then we eat leftovers on Wednesday. Thursday is my day to make something that I can take my time with. This is usually a good time to try a new recipe. Friday is out to eat!

6. Switch It Up

Pick one new recipe a week.  I used to get pretty into making multiple Pinterest meals in the week, but I found them to take much longer since they were all new to me and I didn’t know how they would turn out. I try to keep my experimental meals to once a week now instead to save time! This week I tried this corn zucchini chowder, which is perfect for a fall night!.
corn zucchini chowder

corn zucchini chowder (photo credit Kaitlin Williams Eckstein)

Look at inspiration on Facebook, Pinterest, Blogs, Google searches or other places for favorite recipes.  It may help you to keep a notebook of favorite recipes or organize them on your computer. We now have a Mayhem to Mealtime Program to help you with planning!

7. Prepare for Success!

Plan out your meals and corresponding grocery list and remember to bring your list and your reusable bags. Make a grocery list for the recipes for the week. I organize it by produce, breads, pantry items and aisle items to make grocery shopping faster. It also helps to make sure that I am loading up on veggies! Take the list through the kitchen to see what you already have and remove those items from the list. Now, make your way to the grocery store! It usually only takes about 45 minutes in total to grocery shop with this system!

Planning is key!

Remember, this is simply a plan to help you be more prepared and more likely to succeed, you can be flexible and move meals around and change meals, the most important thing is to have a plan and try to do some cooking ahead of time to make meal preparation more efficient and hopefully enjoyable.
Blog updated December 2016.
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Rebecca Bitzer loves to empower Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) and their clients.  Co-author of Welcome to the Rebelution: Seven steps to the nutrition counseling practice of your dreams and  Taste the Sweet Rebellion: Rebel against dieting.