Healthy Meals Strategy: Your next meal plan calendar & grocery list

It is recommended that adults get 5-13 servings of fruits and veggies every day. EVERY DAY. The number of fruits and veggies consumed actually gets higher when you are super active and battling an illness. In most cases, getting that many servings of fruits and veggies won’t just happen organically. For me, I need to work at it and plan meals in advance to ensure I get proper nutrition into my diet.

My husband and I have adopted a system that ensures we get ample fruits and veggies every week and as a bonus has helped us avoid those dreaded “what should we have for supper tonight” conversations. It is a simple strategy that takes just a little bit of time and preparation and can work for couples, singles, and families.

Step 1: Fill in an organized table of the meals you want to make throughout the week. Every week on Sunday, we sit down together and fill in a table of the meals we are going to have throughout the week. While filling in the table we take into account:

1. The food we are craving. What do we WANT to eat!? We always choose the meals we look forward to eating to ensure that the food will actually get eaten. What is the point of forcing yourself to eat a meal that you think is healthy but is ultimately not enjoyable and likely going to waste?

2. The ingredients we already have in the kitchen. We like to take an inventory before filling in the meals table. This way we can use up ingredients we already have on hand and defer costs at the grocery store. It also helps with keeping our pantry from overflowing.

3. Review our week’s activities. We schedule meals based on who will be home during meal times and what obligations we have going on during the week. We make our more extensive, time-consuming dinners when we have time in the evening to devote to making that meal. In the evenings we are busy we choose to have leftovers or a quick and easy meal.

Step 2: Review the table. This is where we add in the extra fruits and veggies to the menu. We will look over the week’s table and look at the meal options and find the meals that aren’t loaded with fruits and veggies. Then, we brainstorm a few veggie-packed side dishes and them to a meal. Simple, yet very effective.

Step 3: Write the Grocery List. This step is very important. Whether you write it on a sheet of paper or keep the list on your phone, follow these tips to ensure the best grocery experience.

1. Review your meal recipes. Start by reviewing the recipes for each of your meal items. Check to see if there is any ingredient you don’t have in your pantry and add it to the list.

2. Add your “staples”. These are items you can’t live without but may not necessarily be in your meal’s ingredients. Items like milk, coffee, honey, lunch meat, toothpaste, paper towels, etc.

3. Add your must-have snacks. We try to choose healthy snacks like crackers, hummus, popcorn, granola bars, fruits, and veggies. Purchasing things like baby carrots, apples, dried fruit, and sliced cucumber is an awesome way of adding in extra fruit and veggies to your diet. Every once in a while if we are craving it, we will purchase ice cream or other treats like cookies. Living a healthy lifestyle is about balance and over control of your diet is not balance. Food is meant to be enjoyed!

4. Stick to the list. It is hard enough finding time to go to the grocery store, so try to make each trip as effective as possible. Creating the grocery list and sticking to it, will ensure you get everything you need for the week’s worth of meals and will also ensure you aren’t buying unnecessary and unhealthy snacks that pop out at you in the aisles. If it is not on the list, don’t buy it.

Bonus Tip. We eat a lot of leftovers for dinner and to take to work for lunch, so we generally make more than we need at each meal. This allows for quick and easy lunch packing in the morning before work and yummy lunches midday. We also keep lunch items on hand for lunch, hummus, wraps, turkey, eggs, fruit, crackers, etc.

Here is an example of what one of our meal plans look like for the week:

I have put together a downloadable meal table for you to fill in each week. I have also created a grocery list that you can bring with you to the grocery store. Be sure to check the user-friendly .pdfs here!

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