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  • Dr. Nancy

6 Stress-Free Meal Planning Tips That Will Simplify Your Life

I'm sure you've heard the age-old saying that hindsight gives us 20/20 vision, but a little foresight can be helpful, too. In fact, foresight when it comes to meal planning can be your saving grace for making it work for you.

I hate wasting food! It feels like throwing money away. Meal planning helps me to save time and money.

Meal planning helps you to avoid decision fatigue.

Meal planning can feel a little overwhelming, especially for those people who don’t like to cook, but I invite you to see it with renewed eyes today. I'd love to share with you some of my tips to help meal planning feel empowering instead of overwhelming.

The purpose of meal planning is to simplify your life, and here are my "stress less" tips for making that successful.

1. Stop trying to plan everything

If you've never been much into meal planning, give yourself some grace and try to ease into it. If you start by trying to plan every single meal, it can send you into overwhelm.

Instead, work on planning just a few meals a week and convert the leftovers to lunches. Once you get the hang of meal planning dinners, you can then move on to lunch and/or breakfast from there. Baby steps will lead to lasting habits.

2. Learn how to stock kitchen staples

To get into meal planning, you need to keep kitchen staples on hand. Rolled oats can function for oatmeal, smoothies, and even baked treats. Rotisserie chicken can be used for a family meal one night and then turned into quesadillas, wraps, soups, chicken chili, and so much more.

While these are just a few examples, you can see that buying things that have versatility will go a long way in your kitchen and always give you something tasty and nutritious to eat.

3. Put healthy snack options within reach

Whether you have kids or not, putting healthy snacks where they can be easily selected is a smart idea. It prevents rummaging pre-packaged snacks when you've got cut-up veggies with hummus front and center in the fridge.

4. Love that slow cooker

Your slow cooker is a true kitchen hero. You can cook one large meal and use it in different recipes over the next few nights. Or you could freeze portions to pull out in the future for an easy, pre-made dinner. It can save you so much time to cook once and eat multiple times off of one meal.

5. Side-step side dish problems

So, you've meal-prepped, and your main dish is ready to eat in your slow cooker. But what will you serve with it?

On busy nights, don't overthink things. Make a habit of keeping frozen veggies and pre-washed fresh greens around, and you'll always have something to serve on the side.

When you're planning ahead, you can batch cook roasted veggies and portion them as side-items throughout the week.

6. Pack lunches ahead

If tonight's meal is going into tomorrow's lunches, portion it all out while you're in the kitchen. Get everyone's lunches ready all at once, and you can set yourself up for a more peaceful morning. Having lunch out of the way will free you from worrying about what to eat or worrying about hurrying to pack lunches after breakfast.

Once you get more into meal planning, it will come easier, and you'll find what works best for you. By easing into it, you'll reduce much of the stress that it can cause initially and finally be able to use it as a stress-reducing tool for feeding yourself and the family, too!

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