6 Ways Meal Planning Spices Up Your Life

6 Ways Meal Planning Spices Up Your Life

Meal planning has a lot of benefits beyond just putting dinner on the table. We asked Melanie Zook, Registered Dietitian and founder of Fresh Start Nutrition, why she encourages meal planning.

Creating a plan helps streamline your efforts, ultimately saving you time, money and stress.  More than that, it's a way for you to create opportunities to engage with those you love. Involving friends and family in the prep and/or the dining experience itself, adds a social element that makes it more enjoyable for everyone.

Some of the other benefits are...

#1 Waste not...Create a lot!

Using what’s on hand, especially those nearing the Best by date, will save you money at the store and space in your pantry/fridge. When you discover something close to its best by date, it’s a great time to get creative with substitutions or try out a new recipe altogether.

Need some culinary creativity? SuperCook.com offers recipe ideas when you key in your ingredients on hand.  

Waste not...Create a lot!

#2 Avoid the Last-Minute Dash Through the Drive-Thru.

Waiting until hunger strikes to make dinner decisions is a recipe for bad choices. Planning a well-rounded meal and getting the prepping underway before you’re hungry will help you avoid the less-than-ideal options that are so readily available on your commute home.

Reason #2 Avoid the last-minute dash through the drive-thru.

#3 Planning Relieves Stress.

We expend so much energy thinking through logistics...yes, choosing, shopping, preparing meals all takes mindfulness. Writing down a plan for meals will liberate your mind to focus on other tasks in need of tackling.

Writing down what's for dinner on a dry erase menu board, like this one in the Meal Minder®, will also liberate you from everyday question "What's for dinner, Mom?" [You pointing to the board.]

Get your Meal Minder® Weekly Menu Planner today to get started!

52-Week Meal Minder® Weekly Menu Planner Pad | Bonus Dry Erase Menu Board - Denise Albright®


Eat Healthier & Spend Less with this Meal Minder® Menu Planner Pad!

Save time. Save money. Save your sanity when you meal plan!

Before you become a short-order cook, get this Meal Minder® menu planner pad! Mindful menu planning will save you the daily hassle of prepping/making/serving 87 different menu items at as many different times.

Set the menu, prep the items, and let them know what's on the menu!

Oh, and the BONUS “Dinner this Week” dry-erase board to hang in your kitchen! You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.   Buh-bye endless question of “What’s for dinner, mom?”

Features you'll love about this meal planning pad:

  • When you allow yourself time to think through the week(s) ahead, you can be intentional about choosing healthier meals and listing the right ingredients to complete your plan. Rushing through a grocery store while starving putting things in your cart all willy-nilly like is a recipe for bad choices!
  • Includes 52 Weekly spreads for a full year of planning. Pages are non-dated, so use it when it works for you.
  • Perpetual style, ie. you fill-in the dates, so that you can use it each week or pause the habit when you're on vacation or the like.
  • Every week has sections for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack & Prep tasks.  
  • Utilize the checkboxes at the bottom of each day to track each meal's completion or preparation.
  • The reverse of each weekly menu is a grocery list designed with (3) sections and checkboxes, too. Tip: re-purpose the prior week's sheet to use as the grocery list for the current week so that your menu stay in tact on the pad.
  • Pre-drilled to easily hang using a ribbon or twine of your choice.

But wait...there's more...

  • BONUS! The backer card is a dry erase menu board. Display in your kitchen for all your family to see...and spare the question "What's for Dinner?" from being asked a dozen times daily!

#4 Great Family Time!

Getting your entire family around the dinner table has so many benefits. Might as well gather them around the kitchen island beforehand to prepare it, too.

Once you have a meal planned, you can also plan how to distribute prep work among your family. Ask your teen to slice/dice veggies or garnishes while your tween stirs the sauce or sets the table. Even your preschooler can rinse the vegetables or dump the pre-measured ingredients.

Get the tunes going in the background or strike-up the conversation with your team of sous chefs to make it a fun-loving event for the entire family!

Reason #4 Great Family Time!

#5 Make it Social!

What better way to enjoy a meal than to share it with people you enjoy! Choose a theme from backyard BBQ to a lobster boil.

Gather in time to prepare the dishes together in your own kitchen or invite your guests to arrive with their ready-to-enjoy contrib to the menu.  

Reason #5 Make it Social

#6 Make it a Habit!

Before something becomes second nature, it takes practice. The ultimate goal is for meal planning to become something you look forward to doing.

Perhaps it’s your weekend wind-down on Sunday eve with a cozy beverage. Or maybe it’s your weekly kick-off with coffee after kicking your family off to school or work on Monday morn when you can map it out.

After all, eating is something we all must do every day throughout the day, so learn to enjoy the entire process!

Reminder: Keep it Real

While meal planning has a lot of benefits, remember that it’s a plan, not a command.

Kids’ event run late? Friends’ impromptu invitation foil the fiesta? When things change in your schedule that throws off the original plan, roll with it (and we’re not talking the kind with butter)!

A meal plan does not have to be rigid to feel right. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Treat meal planning like a set of guidelines. If you’re planning this around a family, you know better than anyone that flexibility is the key to success.

Inspired by

These are just a few ideas we gathered from our favorite resource
for healthy recipe ideas & tips to enhance menus with ease.
For more, visit FreshStartNutrition.com to discover the wealth of applicable intel
shared by Melanie Zook, MA, RD, LDN.

About Melanie

Melanie Zook, MA, RD is the owner & founder of Fresh Start Nutrition, LLC, where she offers wellness classes, workshops and lunch & learns, pantry and refrigerator makeovers, personalized nutrition consultations, wellness necessities (an e-cookbooksupplementsessential oils and aromatherapeutic products), as well as blogs and works as a media spokeperson.

As a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Nutritionist, Melanie inspires others to take stock of their kitchens and lifestyles in order to start fresh, go green, and live well…every day. She’s a down-to-earth wife and mama of three who brings her professional background in nutrition, education, holistic health, biology, anatomy/physiology and the environment into the homes & lives of others.

While teaching high school biology and anatomy/physiology, Melanie earned her Master’s degree in Nutrition Education & Wellness Promotion and continues to teach Nutrition and Holistic Health courses at a community college. Melanie also enjoys practicing barre3 Fort Mill as a certified instructor and her long time studies of aromatherapy and essential oils. Most of all, she’s a mom trying to keep her family healthy by feeding them nutritious, whole foods as much as possible, while keeping it streamlined, affordable, Earth-friendly, and most of all, enjoyable.

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