Few habits can have as significant of an impact on a family’s health, as meal planning. But there are many different approaches, and finding the method that works for you personally is essential. With few exceptions, all meal planning methods include the following: recipes to prepare, a shopping list to acquire all ingredients, and a meal plan calendar which places the recipes on specific days. Now let’s look at how the methods differ, and how to know which approach is best for you.
Method 1: How To Meal Plan, Handwritten
Grab an erasable writing implement (edits are inevitable) and write your plan. This can take many physical forms, including a dedicated whiteboard, chalkboard, posterboard, or a hundred versions of a printable template. You will need a space for the days of the week, and a shopping list.
Pros: Easy to start immediately ✦ Simple ✦ Inexpensive ✦ Cook your familiar recipes
Cons: Requires you to decide the meals/recipes ✦ Takes time each week ✦ Takes time up front to create a dedicated space or find a template (if desired) ✦ Hard to remember past favorites
Method 2: How To Meal Plan Using A Service
If you don’t mind paying a monthly fee, there are a number of meal planning services who will provide a meal plan for you, including recipes and a shopping list. Some of these are tailored towards specific diets or goals. Despite the expense of the service, many people report saving more from having a meal plan service than they spend on it, with the benefit of better health, time savings, and organization.
Pros: Provides meal plan, recipes, shopping list ✦ Many provide a shopping list organized by department ✦ Almost no time required on a weekly basis to get a plan ✦ Can sometimes accommodate special dietary needs
Cons: Monthly expense generally required ✦ May not accommodate personal dietary needs ✦ Recipes unfamiliar and unpracticed, more time to figure out ✦ Recipes may not match personal skill level and tastes
Method 3: How to Meal Plan Using Software or Websites
An increasing number of software programs and websites allow the creation of a meal plan. New innovations allow more control and convenience than ever. Features vary widely, but many of these tools provide more control than a meal planning service, and many of these double as a recipe manager, a single place to organize all of your recipes and integrate them into your weekly routine. Some will automatically generate a meal plan, providing the same convenience as a service, perhaps without the monthly fee.
Pros (features vary): Can be much more efficient than handwritten meal planning ✦ Many provide a shopping list organized by department ✦ May automatically generate a meal plan ✦ May also act as a recipe manager ✦ May be accessible by smartphone while shopping ✦ Generally more control to meet dietary needs
Cons: May require an up-front or ongoing fee ✦ Some present ads ✦ May require up-front recipe entry ✦ Some can be confusing to use
Disclaimer: This blog is run by Spinning Plates, LLC, creator of the Spinning Meals app for iPhone. We are always working to make meal planning easier and welcome your questions and suggestions. Please contact wecare [at] spinningmeals.com. You can find the Spinning Meals app at: http://appstore.spinningmeals.com.