Whether it’s your budget you are trying to get under control, or the ingredients going into your meals, creating a weekly meal plan can help you achieve both. Meal planning can seem intimidating at first, but with a little prep work and the right tools in your kitchen, you can quickly transform meal planning from a headache into a habit.When tackling weekly meal planning, a little forethought goes a long way to making you successful. Spend some time planning the week’s meals and researching the ingredients so you’re well-prepared. For those unable to order delivered groceries, before you go grocery shopping, make a master list of everything you need and divide it up by section in the grocery store, not the recipe, to guarantee a quick shopping trip. Consider doing your weekly grocery run on a weeknight, in order to miss the weekend shopping crowds. You’ll likely experience better-stocked shelves, shorter lines, and a little less stress, too. The key is restocking your kitchen prior to the weekend, so the focus can be on the prep and cooking. Regardless of how you define 'the weekend' (for those with non traditional schedules), spreading these two important meal-planning tasks over two different days will make the meal planning and preparing process less daunting.
Finally, the appliances in your kitchen are there to help you on your meal planning journey and can really do the heavy-lifting when it comes to cooking in bulk. Here are the 9 must-have appliances we recommend for making meal planning a success each week.
Blenders are great for mixing up a quick smoothie or smoothie bowl before heading out the door, or making homemade dressings for salads and snacks of cut vegetables.
To make sure your weekday mornings are smooth(ie) sailing, plan ahead and make smoothie packs beforehand. Divide your fruits and vegetables and store them in plastic bags in the refrigerator or freezer. In the morning or post-workout, just grab a bag and empty the ingredients into the blender jar, add your liquid of choice and mix away.
For easy homemade dressings, store portions in individual containers to toss into your to-go salads or rice bowls during the week. Try a tasty a tasty Orange Honey Vinaigrette or creamy Blue Cheese Dressing.
Plan your grab-and-go breakfasts all week by making sandwiches in bulk and freezing them over the weekend. Then on busy weekday mornings, the pre-made sandwiches will be ready and waiting for you to grab-and-go. In 5 minutes or less, the Breakfast Sandwich Maker cooks each tasty sandwich for freezing later (and the Dual Breakfast Sandwich Maker can cut that time in half) or makes fresh breakfast sandwiches with your pre-prepped ingredients.
If you’re going the frozen route and are ready to eat breakfast, all you have to do is toss one of your ready-made sandwiches in the microwave for a minute or two and the most important meal of the day is taken care of. This can also cut down on the last-minute morning drive-through run — try our recipes Spinach and Mozzarella Egg White Breakfast Sandwich or Mozzarella and Pesto Breakfast Sandwich as healthier (and delicious) alternatives to your standard breakfast sandwich ingredients.
3. Egg Cooker
Still struggling with how to add more protein to your weekday meals? Make hard-boiled eggs in bulk and store them in your fridge so you can grab an egg or two for a healthy, no-hassle breakfast, toss them into salads for extra protein, and pack them for a quick protein-filled snack. Plan to use leftover hard-boiled eggs to make a batch of Classic Egg Salad for sandwiches for the whole family, too.
Instead of stressing about how to make hard-boiled eggs on the stove, use the Egg Cooker to take the guesswork out and get perfectly cooked hard-, medium- and soft-boiled eggs every time. You can easily whip up the perfect poached egg as well for a delicious and protein-filled Eggs Benedict!
If you’re planning to use a lot of fresh veggies in your weekly meals, all the chopping, slicing and dicing can make up most of your meal prep time...and the prep part of meal planning can start to seem overwhelming.
Instead of cutting everything by hand, use your food processor to chop vegetables in bulk and then store them in the fridge so they are ready to add to salads, mix into soups, or top pizzas with on weeknights. If you end up with a surplus, no worries. Some vegetables can be frozen for easy use in future meals.
Food processors are handy to have around for more than just chopping vegetables — healthier snacks like a creamy hummus or garden salsa are easy to make (and budget friendly) when you use a food processor, too.
5. Indoor Grill
Cooking protein in bulk is a tried-and-true meal planning prep tip, and using an indoor grill to pre-cook what you need can give you that great grilled flavor without having to step outside (and away from the rest of your prep work) to cook it.
Pick up chicken, pork, steak or portobello mushrooms (they’re super tasty when grilled) at the grocery store. Over the weekend, marinate the meat, then grill everything at the same time. When you’re preparing lunches or dinner during the week, all you’ll need to do is reheat, then eat. You can also use certain precooked meats, like chicken, straight out of the fridge as a topping for fresh salads.
6. Rice Cooker
Making bulk oatmeal for weekday breakfasts, quinoa to add to your lunch salads, or coconut rice for a simple side dish to serve with grilled chicken or flaky fish at dinner is easy with the help of your rice cooker. This versatile appliance can help cook a variety of grains and even steam vegetables using the steamer basket, making it ideal to help prep breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
If you’re looking for ways to save money on food, rice is an inexpensive option that can be reinvented throughout the week into a number different dishes from rice bowls to fried rice. And with your rice cooker, you’ll get perfectly cooked, fluffy rice every time.
7. Toaster Oven
If you’re looking for easy weeknight meals, sheet pan suppers are all the rage. Who doesn’t love a one-pan meal? They are easily customizable and involve minimal cleanup, so they’re a great meal option for weeknights. Plan to make a few sheet pan suppers for dinner during the week and save the leftovers for lunch the next day. Try sheet pan shrimp fajitas or dijon salmon with green beans, or be adventurous and create your own.
8. Slow Cooker
Slow cookers make meal planning a breeze because they’re great for cooking food in bulk. Make a hearty chili, soup or stew in your slow cooker and store it in the fridge or freezer to eat later on. You can also use your slow cooker to make proteins to use in meals throughout the week. Make shredded beef, chicken or pork in your slow cooker and use it as a savory addition to tacos, in casseroles, or on sandwiches. Slow cooker meals are an easy way to meal plan for weeknights, too— add all the slow cooker recipe ingredients to the crock in the morning so it’s ready for dinner when you are, and as a bonus, you can freeze leftovers for later.
Did you spot a great sale at the grocery store or are you prepping meals just for one or two people? Go ahead and buy in bulk, then vacuum seal and store everything in the fridge or freezer until you need it. You can easily seal meats, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables — even beans and coffee grounds. Then next time you’re planning meals for the week, take a quick survey of the ingredients you already have stored in your fridge and freezer and try to plan meals around them. By vacuum sealing foods, you’ll also be able to preserve leftovers longer and hopefully, save a little time and money.