With restaurant dining, takeout and takeout taking a back seat to home cooking, many of us are looking for ways to simplify our routines. Rather than drying it out—just to be unprepared—you might want to invest in a meal prep planner to help you plan your meals for the week, keep a stock of groceries and the exact ingredients you’ll need, and generally make you puff. Take nutrition into your own hands.
says Dr. Adrienne Youdim, an internist who specializes in weight loss and clinical nutrition and author of Hungry for more: the stories and science to inspire weight loss from the inside out. “Meal planners are a way to anticipate our busy lives and plan healthy eating in an organized and actionable way.”
You know the feeling: You’ve come home from a long day and can’t be bothered thinking about cooking a balanced meal. Instead, you start putting a spoonful of peanut butter in your mouth as if it were soup (we’ve all been there). “Going to mealtime without a plan of action is dangerous,” says Dr. Paul Goodman, chief medical officer of fresh and soft. “Your stomach is empty, your blood sugar is low, and your hypothalamus is telling you that those potato chips sound so good. By having a meal planned in advance, you can rely on your making decisions before you are under the influence of all those hungry hormones and brain signals.”
Given that Americans chose to cook 82% of their meals At home during a pandemic with the trend showing no signs of slowing, according to the NPD research group, cooking at home can save you more than 90% off restaurant dinnerAccording to research by Forbes, meal planners are a wise investment. But what should you look for?
“Meal planning, and therefore planners, should not be overly complex,” Yudim says. “Essentially, you are looking for a way to plan ahead in terms of what you plan to eat and what you need to keep track of. A shopping list is always a helpful addition.”
Next, Goodman says, a meal planner should contain items you’ll actually use. “For example, a 25-pound laptop with a unicorn on the cover wouldn’t be a good choice for me, because I wouldn’t be able and unwilling to carry it around with me,” he says.
If all of this sounds a little intimidating, fear not: Meal planners are actually designed to reduce *cook-related anxiety — not contribute to it. “Meal planning is the process of strategizing not only the recipes you want to enjoy, but also the approach you should take to preparing and cooking them so that they fit into your schedule,” says Dan Zuccarello, executive food editor at America’s Test Kitchen. “The goal of meal planning should be to help lower stress levels, save time and money, and possibly prepare better-tasting home-cooked meals.”
What are your options? We’ve picked 15 top-rated meal planners that will help you start – or sustain – your quest to cook at home frequently.
You may find home cooking much easier if you combine your meal planner with your grocery list rather than keeping them separate.
“Planning should go beyond the decision to eat a certain way. “Logistics must include, and groceries make up a large part of logistics. Creating automated grocery lists is often part of my recommendations with my patients and has always proven to be one of the most important aspects of meal plan implementation.” Zuccarello also appreciates how meal planners with grocery lists can get in and out of the store quickly, and “recipes are designed to consume the ingredients you have on hand. You can avoid buying food [gets] lost. ”
This 50-page weekly meal planner includes a section to list the types of ingredients that are lacking in ingredients so you can stock up on them before you schedule a meal. It has a separate notebook exclusively for shopping lists to help you stay on track.
Arguably the last meal planner you’ll ever need, this comprehensive set of three to-do lists will keep your life organized in more ways than one. It comes with a meal planner, shopping list, and weekly to-do list so you can consolidate your responsibilities, and it also features a magnetic back so you can display it on your fridge without using masking tape.
Instead of stuffing the entire pillow in your bag when you go grocery shopping, this meal planner lets you tear it from the bottom of every page. The magnetic board includes 50 categorized pages decorated with whimsical, culinary-inspired shapes.
Unless your brain is a calculator, there’s a good chance you’ll need some extra help scheduling the macros you want, whether you’re aiming to hit a specific fitness goal or manage a chronic disease through nutrition.
“Having a mega-meal planner is absolutely essential if you intend to stick to macronutrient guidelines as part of your diet,” Goodman says. “I can’t imagine maintaining the macros on the go. It’s a very complicated method. You have to know the total content of the foods right off the top of your head and be able to keep track of the totals as you go.”
This printable meal planner makes it easy to keep track of macronutrients like protein, fat, carbs, calories, water intake, and more. The board allows you to include your daily goals to help you stay accountable. Put it in your journal or in the fridge for easy access.
This digital meal planner does all the work for you by calculating the amount of macronutrients in each meal (ie: no need to hand it in, write it down or pull out a calculator), while allowing you to keep an eye on upcoming meals. The spreadsheet is suitable for both Excel and Google Sheets.
This printable meal planning pack is an uninterrupted solution to your quest for more home-cooked meals. Every major food item is prefixed with the word “almost” to promote a more flexible eating pattern, and its grocery list is divided into categories such as fruits/vegetables, frozen and canned. Heavenly design is also “out of this world”.
Customized weekly meal planners let you make the experience your own. But how should you do that? “Aim to customize it to your schedule,” Goodman recommends. “Do you plan for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and then dinner every day? Match your planner with that.” He also points out that you can incorporate a grocery shopping schedule or habits into your meal plan, and that visually, your planner should be something that appeals to you, So you are more likely to use it.
Customize nearly every aspect of this meal planner from size to design, device color to custom text. As a dry-erase acrylic board, it’s also a sustainable alternative to paper.
You are more likely to use your meal planner if it speaks to you uniquely. Here, you can choose from dozens of designs such as tropical leaves and paw prints, as well as the layout, fonts, and titles you want. The dry erase board comes with an erasable marker lined with magnets.
With this menu planner on magnetic sheet support, you’ll give your kitchen a bistro feel. Choose the title, font, color and more. Along with the grocery list section, you can write various notes for yourself to help prepare you for the week.
Feeding several mouths (all with different taste buds) may seem a lot different than if you were to cook yourself. Zuccarello says your family meal planner should reflect your family’s unique priorities, whether it’s eating healthy food, cooking food to eat leftovers, or saving time and money.
This 50-page Food Bible Meal Planner Notebook will become your family’s go-to with its easy-to-use design. Choose from a pre-selected selection of main dishes each day from fish to vegetarian along with an optional note about which cookbook or website it belongs to, then fill up on your side dishes. An easy-to-use grocery list makes every ingredient easier to stock.
Instead of keeping your meal plans and meal plans* separate, combine them into one comprehensive master list. The year-round calendar features a page for each week, allowing you to keep track of meals, groceries, chores, and more.
This bold and beautiful dry erase board serves as a weekly to-do list planner and to-do list where you can include all of your family’s food and other responsibilities. Bonus: The included colored chalk markers with magnetic lids may inspire kids to participate in meal planning.
There is value in going old school. Unlike an app that you’ll only see once you get to your phone, a printable weekly meal planner displayed on your fridge or desk will serve as a reminder of what you need to prepare or buy for the week. “For me, I’m used to using printed meal planners and I prefer using them,” Zuccarello says. “I like to cross out meals and completed tasks, and like to add notes sometimes.”
With blank spaces every day of the week and plenty of space to write notes, this meal planner provides enough guidance to help you stay on track, with enough flexibility to make it work for you.
This visually appealing printable meal planner comes with a grocery list and kitchen stock newspaper so you can see exactly what types of ingredients you have on hand before committing to a recipe. The water and fruit tracker also enhances accountability, and you can print it the size you want.
This 30 day planner gives you an overall picture of your meals for the next month. The seven-page digital file includes freezer and refrigerator stock sheets, menus for the week, and a grocery list for each meal of the day. Each section can be customized to suit your priorities.
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