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Three Simple Steps to Meal Planning

In this post you will learn how to plan your meals and shop for maximum efficiency, saving you lots of time and money! If you’d like to learn more about the different meal planning models, check out this post.

3 Simple Steps to Planning

I have one rule when it comes to meal planning: don’t overcomplicate it! Follow this simple three-step plan and you’ll be on your way to Heinen’s to fill up your cart in no time.  

Step one: Pick a day that you will plan your meals, shop for the ingredients, and do some light prep work. Write these days on your calendar and stick to it like an appointment. 

Consider your weekly routine and plug these in on the least hectic days. For example, I plan and shop on Saturday and then do some light prep work on Sundays. 

Unless you truly enjoy it, you shouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes on planning your meals, otherwise it becomes a chore that’s easy to give up. If you like breakfast-for-dinner, you’ll love my recipe for Garden Veggie Baked Omelet!

Meal prep should also be kept to a minimum– under two hours. Most Sundays I can prep in under an hour. 

Step two: Take an inventory of your kitchen.

Check for items you already have on hand or those you need to use up. This is an important step because it will save you money and can also serve as a guide to the type of meal or recipe you select. For example, brown rice and a can of black beans in the pantry and Romaine lettuce and ground turkey in the fridge makes for a lovely taco salad in my book. Just add a jar of Heinen’s salsa and a bag of sprouted Way Better Chips to your grocery list and you’ve got one complete meal taken care of.  

It’s smart to keep an inventory of your freezer and update it weekly. A freezer inventory is a good way to assure you use up meal components and may even include full meals like lentil soup! 

Step three: Plug in your meals 

Write your plan on a piece of paper, in a notebook, on a special calendar you keep on the refrigerator, or even add it to Google Docs or Spreadsheet to make it easily accessible from your phone. If you’re new to meal planning, start with just one or two days’ worth of meals. Refer to your list of “back pocket” recipes.

To avoid reinventing the wheel, it’s a good idea to save your meal plans too. Using a Google spreadsheet is especially helpful here because everything’s in one place.

A Few Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of Your Meals

  • Keep in mind the three meal components: veggies, protein, and pizazz! You can learn more about them here.
  • Doubling recipes is a good idea. This way you’ll have enough for two meals– one to enjoy now and the other later in the week. 
  • Recipes like vegetable or lentil soup can easily be doubled or tripled and then frozen. Just be sure to date and label your containers so you know what’s inside!  
  • Repurpose ingredients for another type of meal. For example, bake extra chicken and roast another tray of veggies and add to dinner-size salads the next day. 
  • Plug in a restaurant or carry-out night– you deserve it! Heinen’s has an incredible selection of delicious, restaurant-quality prepared items that range from main dishes to sides and appetizers.

Here’s an example of one of my plans to give you an idea of what a week’s worth of meals can look like:

  • Sunday: Crockpot Lentil Soup
  • Monday: Leftover Crockpot Lentil Soup
  • Tuesday: Roasted Veggies and Chicken
  • Wednesday: BIG Salads: use leftover Roasted Veggies and Chicken
  • Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner: Omelets using leftover veggies from Tuesday + Birch Benders Waffles
  • Friday: Clean House! (Use up ingredients in the kitchen) Tuna salad with avocado mayo + sprouted crackers + fresh cheese cubes + berries + raw veggies and hummus
  • Saturday: Dine out!

Keeping a Grocery List

Now it’s time to create your list. Whether you decide on pencil and paper, Google Docs/Spreadsheet, or a free app like AnyList, it’s helpful to organize your list by department: Produce, Dairy, Frozen, Meat/Seafood/Deli, and Grocery. This will save you lots of time once you get to the store.

After consulting your kitchen and freezer inventory, add any needed items to your grocery list. Before heading out to your favorite Heinen’s, don’t forget to check your staple ingredients to see if they need replenishing. 

Grocery tips:

It’s wise to stick to your list but I also recommend giving yourself the freedom to try a few new things too! This is where inspired meal planning can come into play. Another helpful tip is to avoid shopping on an empty stomach! The last time I went to Heinen’s on an empty stomach I ended up with vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, frozen pizza and cookies! Can you relate? 

If you get stuck, head on over to the Wellness Department for a nutrition bar and eat it before starting out. The time it takes to stand in line for one item will be well worth it for your wallet…I promise! PS: One of my favorite nutrition bars is Raw Rev Glo. I think you’ll like it too!

Take Action …

Pick a day that you will plan your meals, shop for the ingredients, and do some light prep work. Write these days on your calendar. 

Next, take a brief inventory of your kitchen and check for items you already have on hand or those you need to use up. 

On your chosen meal planning day, plug in your meals for one week. Don’t overcommit here– one or two meals is a-ok. After checking your inventory, write your grocery list and head out to Heinen’s on your chosen shopping day. Oh, and if you’re hungry, have a snack before you leave the house! 🙂 


 

Melanie Jatsek
By Melanie Jatsek RD, LD
Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek believes that the answer to a strong, healthy and vibrant body lies within. She graduated cum laude from the University of Akron, earning a degree in Nutrition & Dietetics and has over 20 years of experience in wellness program development, health coaching and professional speaking. As a published author of three books and registered dietitian for Heinen’s Grocery Store, Melanie offers programs, services, and tools to help Heinen’s customers take inspired action to build the healthy body they were meant to live in…without giving up their favorite foods.

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