Meal Planning Basics: 5 Tools to Get Started Right

It's no secret: eating at home is much healthier and more beneficial, especially if you are not only eating, but eating with a goal in mind. Whether your goal is to build muscle or to lose fat, either is a great reason to start cooking at home whenever possible.

Eating in takes a lot of preparation and time that a lot of us just don't have. Cooking at home is always going to involve effort, but when you take the time to meal plan, it turns a normally Herculean effort in to something much more manageable.

Rustle Up Your Recipes

Of course, good meal planning always starts with the foundation: your recipes. If you are cooking at home already, you surely have a good rotation of healthy favorites already. It may take some time to get them all together, but spending that time up front can make things much easier from that point on.

When it comes to meal planning, there is one indispensable tool that you must have in your arsenal, and that is Meal Plan Magic. It's the one tool that makes all your others more efficient and effective. Through creating shopping lists, tracking your intake and adjusting food intake levels, it can help you automate your cooking at home from the ground up.  If you're looking to shed fat or build muscle, be sure to pick up a meal planning template to hit the ground running and always know which foods to eat when.

Get Ahead

If you are currently planning only a couple of days ahead with your meals, you know the stress it can induce when you realize you are out of something you need for dinner tonight. Running to the grocery store every couple days can completely undermine what you are trying to do with your meal planning.

Once you've got your plan of attack for the week, you need to start getting together your meal components. Doing it ahead of time is easy when you utilize specially-made meal prep containers. Choosing the right container can also help make your life easier. Things you should look for include:

  • Stackability, to keep your refrigerator uncluttered.
  • Microwave safe, to help cut down on waste and speed up the preparation process.
  • BPA-free plastic. When trying to eat healthy, you don't want dangerous chemicals next to your food.
  • Lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Dishwasher safe.
  • Consider the advantages of choosing glass meal prep containers over plastic.  

Weigh Your Options

Of course most amateur chefs worth their salt are going to have a full complement of measuring cups, but when you are meal-planning with health goals in mind, a kitchen scale is a good tool to have as well. A good digital scale allows you to quickly and easily pinpoint the exact amount of an ingredient you need to add when a recipe calls for it by weight. A kitchen scale especially should include a tare feature, to allow for the bowl or plate the ingredient is in so you don't have to guess at how much it weighs.

Another advantage to a digital scale is the ability to quickly convert measurements. From pounds to ounces to grams, not having to convert weights on the fly is going to save you prep time.

Cookware Planning

Not only is it important that you are planning ahead with your ingredients when cooking at home, but it's also important to plan ahead with your cookware. Have you ever gone to prepare a meal, only to find out that the bowl or pan you need is dirty from the day before?

Getting yourself a complete set of great cookware is important, but so is thinking ahead to when you will need it again. If you do all your meal planning and prepping one night of the week, you may find yourself burning a lot of time doing dishes, too. If you are going to be prepping meals on the fly during the week, however, it's a good idea to get all your needed tools out the morning before.

Take it Slow

There's really no substitute for a great slow cooker. No matter what meals you are preparing, a crock pot is a very useful tool, allowing you to throw ingredients in ahead of time for a meal you won't be eating for four to eight hours.

When selecting the right one for what you need, consider the capacity, cook time, and temperature range that each unit offers. If you are only cooking for two, there's no need for a huge capacity. If you want great flexibility with cook times, look for an option with digital controls that let you totally customize your cooking.

Just like any project, meal planning becomes much simpler when you have the right tools at your disposal. When cooking at home with a system like Meal Plan Magic, you can concentrate on eating right and meeting your goals without all the other hassle.

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