National Get Organized Week

Whether it’s the desk at work or your kids’ playroom, most of us have something in our lives that could use a little organizing. While being organized may take a little work up front, it can be a big time saver in the long run. This is especially true for meal planning, an often forgotten practice that can offer quite a few benefits if planned and organized in advance. Meal planning can save time and money, reduce stress, promote good health, and allow more time and energy to be devoted to the things that really matter in life, such as family.

To ensure good nutrition and healthy eating practices for you and the family, take time to meal plan. By eating right, you’ll be at your best, staying focused and energized throughout the day.

Meal Planning 101

Here’s a three step process to help organize your meals for the week.

Step 1: Think Ahead. What does your schedule look like this week? Do you have any special events or activities that will be happening? Will you need quick and easy meals on those days? Is there a day or two where you may have a little more time to meal prep and/or cook? It’s important to think through your schedule before preparing your meal plan; your meal plan needs to be realistic.

Step 2: Plan Your Meals. Write out your meals for the week with this easy-to-use meal planning worksheet. Include a variety of lean proteins, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and low-fat dairy in each meal. To ensure a well-balanced meal, follow the lean and green meal guidelines (click here). If you’re not trying to lose weight, consider adding a serving of fruit, low-fat dairy, and/or starches (i.e. whole grains, like quinoa, or starchy vegetables, like sweet potatoes).

Remember to keep it simple. You’d be amazed at what you can throw together with just a few healthy ingredients. Take for example, a tuna melt (mix canned tuna in water + low-fat mayo + Dijon mustard + onion; serve on a whole grain English muffin with tomato slices, lettuce, and a slice of reduced-fat Swiss cheese) served with low-sodium canned tomato soup; pre-grilled chicken strips served over a bed of salad greens, topped with chopped vegetables, fruit slices (optional), and a splash of olive oil and vinegar.

On days that you are busy, plan accordingly. Do an online search for quick and easy meal ideas and recipes, use the slow cooker, or plan on having leftovers that night. On days when you have more time, consider batch cooking. Prepare extras for later in the week; cut up veggies and put them in grab-and-go baggies, prep a large salad to last the entire week, grill several chicken breasts in advance.

If you need meal ideas, ask family members for their input, peruse cookbooks or do an online recipe search, and see what’s on special at the grocery store that week.

Step 3: Make a grocery list, and go shopping. As you plan your meals, write down what ingredients you will need to prepare them. Schedule a day to go grocery shopping so that you have what you need on hand. Stock up on healthy staples items while at the store, including fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables; herbs and spices; fresh, frozen, or canned lean protein, like tuna and chicken; yogurt; low-fat cheese sticks; low sodium canned beans and broth; pre-washed salad mixes; quick cooking grains, like quinoa or brown rice; and Medifast Meals. By doing so, you’ll save extra trips to the grocery store and have healthy ready-to-eat foods to make effortless, yet balanced meals.