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Creating Daily Meal Plans to Make Your Life Easier Jam-packed schedules, picky eaters, and rising grocery prices can make it difficult to have nutritious meals every day. However, with a little planning, you can help make this arduous task...

By Abby Miller

This story originally appeared on Calendar

Jam-packed schedules, picky eaters, and rising grocery prices can make it difficult to have nutritious meals every day. However, with a little planning, you can help make this arduous task a little easier. Not only will your family enjoy healthier meals, but you will also be teaching crucial life skills. Here are a few reasons why meal planning is useful and some tips to make it work for you.

Get Creative

Use a calendar, chalkboard, or online meal plan tool to plot some family favorites for a few nights a week. For the blank spaces, save some recipes for "easy weeknight dinners" or "healthy casseroles" from Pinterest.

You can plan one week based on catchy alliteration. Try out Meatless Monday even if you're not a vegetarian. It can be good for your health, pocket, and planet. A hearty mac n cheese or eggplant parmesan is an easy way to ward away the Monday blues.

Next comes Taco Tuesdays. Prepare one type of protein each week. Get the taco shells, lay out the toppings, and everyone can help themselves. Warm Wednesdays can be a casserole made in advance that just needs to be baked or warmed. Thrifty Thursdays can be leftovers from the last three days. Fun Fridays can be eating out or getting something delivered to end the week on a relaxed note.

On Special Saturdays, try out a new recipe that you had bookmarked. Shopping Sundays can be for getting the groceries and whipping up a fresh stir fry after your haul. You could also try this with different cuisines. Mexican Monday, Thai Tuesday, Wacky Wednesday for a funny combination, and so on.

Save Time

The half-hour it should take to jot down meal plan ideas can save several hours during the week. While you're at it, make a list of the ingredients you need for that week and order online. If a weekly plan seems overwhelming, start off with planning for one day. Once you start seeing the benefits, you can try planning for a couple of days.

Meal plans are not just for dinner time. You can save time and enjoy a smoother morning routine if lunches are packed the night before. Whether you take lunch to work or have it at home, planning can never hurt. You could shred last night's grilled chicken and repurpose it into a panini or wrap. Make a little more salad at dinner and put it in mason jars. Add some crunchy croutons and dressing right before lunch.

If your kids take lunch from home, follow the same system. Have set days for certain lunches so everyone knows what to expect. If they buy hot lunch at school once a week, make a note on the calendar.

Even just chopping all the veggies for the week or marinating the meat can save time. Use an instant pot or rice cooker to speed up cooking some fresh sides as needed.

Improve Health

Not only are you going to save time, you can also save calories with meal plans. You can calculate your daily carbohydrates, protein, and sugars when you write things down. This makes it more probable that you'll stick to your daily limits for each food group. If you don't know where to start, look up heart-healthy meal plans on reputed medical websites.

For instance, "bite it and write it" has long been a weight loss mantra. People tend to lose unwanted pounds when they see how many snacks they sneak into their daily calorie count. With quick ideas at your fingertips, you're more likely to cook than order takeout or drown your woes in chocolate.

However, meal plans do not only help if you're trying to lose weight. It can also help if you are bulking up or training for a marathon. You can add protein shakes and supplements to your daily plan as well. Some prefer using apps on their phone to plan meals and keep a tab on their hydration as well.

Always stock up on healthy snacks in your office drawer. With better options easily available, you're less likely to swerve into the drive-thru lane for a quick fix.

In addition to physical benefits, you can also enjoy better mental health with meal planning. Once the major task of meals is taken care of, you'll have more time for self-care and hobbies. Planning can reduce anxiety and the uncomfortable side effects that come with it.

Save Some Dough

When you know what you're going to cook that week, you need to only make one trip to the grocery store. If you see something on sale, you can always swap a protein or veggie and make it work. Chicken burgers instead of beef patties or broccoli instead of beans are easy to substitute when the main meal is planned.

Stopping at the grocery store on your way back from work is usually not a good idea. You're likely to pick up a more expensive ready-to-eat meal or something processed and full of preservatives. You're also more likely to spend more money each time you visit the store. If you stick to your meal plan, however, you can abide by a list.

Buy snacks in bulk and make small baggies of individual servings. When baby carrots and trail mix is easily available, you'll be less likely to reach for a cookie or potato chips.

Meal kits delivered to your home may seem pricey compared to cooking from scratch. However, they are less expensive than eating out all the time. And they can save you money in the long run when you can recreate those recipes. With more than $7 billion in sales in 2022, meal kits are definitely popular today. You can experiment with unique ingredient combinations in the kits and expand your pantry and palette.

Get Everyone Involved

Meal kits are a great way to get older kids to help too. Instead of just Mom or Dad dishing out something for the children each evening, get their input. Did they like something at Grandma's house? Can you find a copycat recipe for their favorite restaurant dish?

Assign age-appropriate tasks to the kids so they can get involved. They can use safe knives to cut fruits and help measure ingredients. Children can be amazing in the kitchen when they're not micromanaged or expected to clean up perfectly.

Teens can also take on at least one day of the week to make a meal. They might be motivated to try TikTok recipes like the Bella Hadid pasta that went viral. Parents will finally see some benefits of social media scrolling.

They might mess up the first few times, but that's okay. You are teaching them invaluable skills that will help them for the rest of their life.

Be Flexible — Sometimes

There will be days when you don't stick to your meal plan, and that's normal. It's actually expected. Identify the triggers that lead you to deviate. It could be a particular day of the week when you work longer hours. Or it could be back-to-back activities on the weekend.

Maybe you are trying to lose weight or just want to eat better — as long as you follow your plan most of the time, you'll save yourself time, money, and unnecessary stress.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by George Milton; Pexels; Thank you!

The post Creating Daily Meal Plans to Make Your Life Easier appeared first on Calendar.

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