Are you someone who struggles to get healthy weeknight meals on the table? Is your life getting crazier, and you can’t quite figure out how to simplify things when it comes to cooking? Let me tell you, you’re not alone! This is an area where a lot of people struggle. But many want to find sustainable ways to consistently get healthy weeknight meals on the table. Maybe your motivation for doing it relates to weight loss, health concerns, and/or saving money. Again, you are not alone. But, how do you make it happen?
I’ve been talking a lot about resolutions lately, and I thought it would great to dive deeper into the topic of meal planning, specifically planning weeknight meals. Many people have the resolution to eat healthier by cooking weeknight meals, yet struggle to make the resolution a reality. In addition, it’s often easier to eat on the run, or pick up food at a store or restaurant instead of making a weeknight meal. But what if things could be easier? What if there was a way to cook your weeknight meals yourself; have more control over your caloric intake, sodium intake, etc.; and save a penny or two?
This is where meal planning comes into play. I’ll give you three simple ways to successfully plan your best weeknight meals!
Weeknight Meals Tip #1: Use a Paid Meal Planning Service
There are many meal planning services out there. You do have to pay for most of them, but it will save you time in the long run. Even if you have a specific dietary preference, you can find a meal planning service for you. And, if you are a beginner cook, there are meal planning services that can help you become a better cook!
When I first started using a meal planning service, I was a beginner cook. I needed help with basic things like how to use a knife! I’d say that I was definitely intimidated, and my intimidation kept me out of the kitchen. But my family had to eat, so what was I to do? That’s when I discovered…
Cook Smarts is a paid meal planning service that helped me get healthier weeknight meals on the table despite my hectic schedule. It also taught me how to prepare foods that were new to me and how to use my knives. All of that helped me to gain confidence in the kitchen, increase my curiosity to try new foods, and
Each Cook Smarts recipe offers 4 types of meals: original, vegetarian, gluten-free, and paleo (Whole30 compliant meals are coming in January!). The nutrition facts are listed for each meal, which I love because I can make substitutions if the sodium, fat, or calorie counts are higher than I’d like. With each meal plan, you’ll receive cooking tips and ways to streamline your prep process by doing things in advance. In addition, there is an abundance of free resources available on their website. You can find cooking guides, lessons, articles, videos, and infographics!
Using a meal planning service like Cook Smarts helps me: stay organized with my meal planning each week, get a quick (and good) meal on the table when I’m stretched for time, build a grocery list in a fraction of the time than it normally would, and gain greater confidence in the kitchen. You can get a taste test for free by gaining access to 3 meal plans with no time limit. If it works for you, they offer a simple pricing structure: $8/month, $21/quarter, or $72/year.
PlateJoy is another awesome meal planning service. It will cost you $8/month, but with the cost, you’ll get customized, adaptable meal plans for a variety of dietary needs and preferences. PlateJoy helps you populate a grocery list that you can send to Instacart. That means you can have your groceries delivered to you within a couple of hours! The system really helps you minimize wasting time and food. It tracks items that you have in your pantry so you don’t waste time adding them to your grocery list, or buying more food than you need. I love the fact that PlateJoy helps you plan ahead for leftovers too. Not only are you cooking weeknight meals, but you can have some leftovers for lunch. That’s awesome! PlateJoy can be customized for all meals, not just your weeknight meals. Plus, you can add your own recipes too.
When you start using PlateJoy, you’ll complete a lifestyle questionnaire. Within the questionnaire, you’ll be asked to list your dietary preferences, shopping preferences, kitchen appliances, and portion sizes for your family members. As a side note, all of the preferences can be amended at any time. After completing the quiz, you’ll get a list of meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, all with beautiful pictures and nutritional information. Plus, you’ll be able to get advice from a personal nutrition coach!
All of these perks are available via PlateJoy’s $8/month subscription. You can sign up for a free trial too. Just click here to get started!
Weeknight Meals Tip #2: Use Free Meal Plans
With the Internet, you have access to many free recipes. Whether it be meal plans or individual recipes, all are just clicks away on the Internet. Regarding meal plans, Eatingwell.com has several 7-day meal plans to fit your resolutions and needs. For example, they have meal plans for clean eating, high-fiber, heart-healthy, pregnancy, weight-loss, dairy-free, gluten-free, low-carb, low-sodium, and vegetarian, just to name a few.
What you don’t get from these free meal plans is a grocery list. So, you’ll have to add in extra time to create that yourself. As you get more comfortable with cooking and creating meals, you can use this site or others for their individual recipes. Search by cuisine, or by your food preference to build your meals for the week. Other great recipe websites are:
Weeknight Meals Tip #3: Create Your Own Meal Plan with Your Favorite Recipes
Let’s say you have a ton of recipes that you love, but you don’t have time to sit down and organize when you’ll eat them or how you’ll create the grocery list to get all of the food. Even the most experienced cooks struggle with this. Say hello to the Plan to Eat service. This
This is how it works. Within the online tool, you upload your favorite recipes from the web. You can even import your non-web recipes too. Think about all of the recipes that have been handed down within your family, or from your friends. You can store them here! When you import a recipe, you can drag/drop it on your calendar to plan when you’ll make it. You have flexibility to plan on a short-term basis (for a week), or a long-term basis (for a month). From there, the system generates a grocery list for you. The grocery list is customizable too–you can add and delete items.
I love that you can gather recipes from Pinterest or your favorite website and upload them into the Plan to Eat website to be stored. This saves a tremendous amount of time and creates an online recipe file for future use. So, if you’re someone who really likes my step #2 above, you can use Plan to Eat as a way to save your favorite online recipes, then create your own meal plans in the future! Besides the convenience, Plan to Eat is really affordable too. You can start with a 30-day trial (with no strings attached). If it works for you, the monthly fee is $4.95/month, or you can sign-up for $39/year (which comes to $3.25/month). So affordable!
Now that I’ve given you 3 simple ways to successfully plan your best weeknight meals, what are you thinking? Which option will work best for you? The best thing about all of these options is that you can test them out and see what will work best for your lifestyle. And that’s what I recommend. Take a week to find out what will work best for you, then commit to a plan of action for meal planning. Once you make meal planning part of your lifestyle, I think you’ll love it.
Happy meal planning everyone!
Mrs. Traylor is a Fitness Instructor, NASM Certified Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach, AFPA Certified Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness Specialist, wife, and momma who provides actionable advice for positive lifestyle changes with fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Read about Wendy’s inspiring entrepreneurial journey, and subscribe to Wendy’s newsletter here!