Stress-Free Meal Planning Ideas

When you first start meal planning, it can feel overwhelming, intimidating, and even stressful. The point of meal planning is to plan and free up your time so that you're less stressed, so it's beneficial to plow through those beginning stages to get to the good stuff. Here are some stress-free meal planning ideas to make cooking and meal prepping as fun and easy as possible for the New Year ahead.

1. Start Small

If you're just starting to meal plan, don't try to prepare all your meals for the entire week in one day. You don't need to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner all planned out. Start with something small, such as your snacks for a few days of the week. Wash and cut up some fruits and veggies, brainstorm some quick and easy snack ideas, or go grocery shopping and get your ingredients. Some simple snack ideas are apples and peanut butter, raw veggies with dipping sauce, or some pita chips with hummus. Then, try to plan for one or more meals when you feel more confident with meal planning. As with any habit you're trying to introduce into your routine, setting small goals and working your way up to bigger ones always works best in the long run.

2. Make Easy & Quick Meals

Often, people try to make complicated meals when they meal plan. Don't make this mistake -- stick to easy and quick meals that won't make you feel more stressed. Some of the most delicious recipes require little time and are simple to make with few ingredients. There's nothing wrong with simplicity and repeating meals. You don't need to eat something different each week unless you like to experiment with new recipes, and that doesn't add any extra layers of stress for you.

3. Keep the Fridge & Pantry Staples Stocked

If you notice that you're using certain ingredients in many of your meals, make sure to continue buying those staples. Keep your fridge stocked with the items you use the most. Meal planning is easy when you always have those handy staples at hand to put together a complete meal.

4. Batch Cook Foods to Use for Different Meals

When your kitchen is always stocked with staples, it's a good idea to start batch cooking ingredients for multiple meals. For example, you can use a large batch of rice or quinoa for both lunches and dinners. Keep the seasoning relatively simple so that it can pair with different dishes. When it comes to meal planning, spices are your best friend. You can use similar ingredients for two separate meals, but other spices will give you two completely different dishes. This will save you so much time in the kitchen!

5. Make the Meals Work for Everyone

Whether someone has a special dietary requirement, has allergies or intolerances, or is just a picky eater, consider everyone when planning the family meals. It's much more work to prepare separate meals for everyone. You can piece different elements of the meal together for each person. For example, if someone is a vegetarian, they can choose a plant-based main dish while everyone shares the same side items.

These helpful tips can give you a great boost to your New Year's resolution to start Meal Prepping...Have fun!!

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