I'm a Dietitian and This Is My Go-to Meal Planner
Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where assistant nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.
I'm sure everyone can relate, but lately things feel busier than normal. Regardless of what my work or social calendar looks like, one thing that helps me feel more grounded is having a plan for my meals. Since I've started cooking more at home, I've learned that having a meal plan, even if it's loose, helps me save time and money.
Even though what I eat in a typical day can vary, I try to stick to a Mediterranean-style eating pattern. This involves including ample fresh produce, whole grains, healthy fats and varied lean protein sources, like fish, beans, tofu, eggs and poultry (for more inspiration, check out these healthy Mediterranean-style recipes). As you might expect, doing this successfully might take a little planning.
The one tool that has made meal planning so much easier is the Weekly Meal Planner by Rifle Paper Company. I got it as a gift a few years ago and quickly replace it when it gets down to the last few pages.
This weekly meal planner couldn't be simpler to use, which is one of the main reasons I love it. Each day gives you space to write down your morning, midday and evening meals. Plus, you get bonus space for miscellaneous items. It also has a perforated tab for your shopping list that you can easily tear off and bring with you to the store—it has checkable boxes and all! This level of organization makes my type-A heart sing, and it also helps me stay focused in the grocery store so I only buy what I need.
Instead of planning out every single meal of every single day, I usually plan out four to five evening meals per week and write "leftovers" in the space for lunch the following day. I also will leave a few days a week wide open for takeout or spontaneity. For my morning meal, I take stock of what I have then will write a sample breakfast I could make in my planner. This is great inspiration for days when I don't feel like thinking on the spot. Not planning out every meal prevents me from getting to the end of the week with unused groceries that would become wasted food (which saves me money, too). Not to mention, the planner is only $15 and has 52 pages—that's a year of meal planning at just $0.29 per week!
I know meal planning is not for everyone, and I am far from strict when it comes to my menu. That said, it is one easy way to save money, time and space in the kitchen (all things that are very important to me living alone). A little planning goes a long way with helping you eat healthier and save money, and this Weekly Meal Planner by Rifle Paper Company is a tool worth having.