Meal planning is one of the biggest factors when it comes to our family eating healthy and saving money on our grocery budget. When I don’t plan ahead and prep for the week, we are much more likely to reach for unhealthier options or decide to grab something at a local restaurant (which totally can blow your budget). Healthy eating is something that is really important to our family and meal planning has been so helpful and takes so much stress out of it. I’ll be sharing a ton of tips to make meal planning easier and frustration free and sharing one of my favorite recipes that we use throughout the week: Shredded and Crispy Chipotle Chicken!
For our family, there are many reasons that we meal plan:
Eat Nutritious Foods
Meal planning allows me to plan more balanced meals that ensure that my family is eating healthier and nutritious on a daily basis. Planning healthier meals is a must for teaching our kids healthier eating habits from a young age.
Meal planning allows my family to save money by not eating out, reducing food waste by only purchasing what we need, and by buying foods based on sales and seasonable prices. We often buy in bulk from Sam’s Club and which saves us money and time by not having to shop constantly (and we love their member specials).
Save Time and Energy
Meal planning allows me to plan for the week ahead. If I know we have a busy week, I plan meals accordingly (for example, crock pot meals when I know I don’t have time in the evening). I’m also a big fan of having leftovers (especially for lunches) as it cuts down on cooking as often. Instead of cooking every single day for each meal, I can batch cook one day during the week to save myself prep time later. Buying in bulk at Sam’s Club saves us a substantial amount of time by cutting down on how many grocery trips we take weekly or bi-weekly.
When it comes to meal planning, there a few steps and processes that I take every week to make meal planning easier and more successful for my family. I’ve found that these helps so much with keeping us on track when it comes to eating a healthier diet and saves us a ton of time and money in the long run as well!
Meal Planning Basics:
Check Your Calendar
Before planning for the week, I always take a look at our calendar to see what type of week we have ahead. If I know I’ll be short on time, I’ll be sure to make more meals that can be very quickly prepared or more crockpot meals that don’t require much preparation.
Stretch Your Proteins
Since proteins (like chicken, beef, etc,) tend to be the more expensive items on your grocery list, finding ways to save money on them and making them stretch further is so important. When it comes to saving money, we love buying in bulk from Sam’s Club. One of our weekly purchases is Tyson® Frozen Chicken Breasts which are perfect because I can easily grab the exact amount I need since they are frozen separately in the bag (no more separating big bundles of chicken) and they are a a great low fat, high protein option which we use to create “better for you” meals.
I often take a few frozen chicken breasts and cook them in our pressure cooker or crock pot and shred the chicken to be used throughout the week in burrito bowls, tacos, rice bowls, stir fry’s, quesadillas, casseroles and more. They are a healthier option that is super easy to use in multiple meals with a few changes in spices and Tyson® Frozen Chicken Breasts cook up great every time. I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes for Shredded and Crispy Chipotle Chicken so keep reading to grab the recipe below.
Prepare Ahead of Time
I usually take a block of time on the weekend to prepare and prep foods for the week. I take the time to wash and cut fruits and vegetables (which also makes it much easier to eat healthy when it’s ready to grab and eat), make sides for lunches and dinners, and batch cook my meats (like Tyson® Frozen Chicken Breasts and ground beef). A few great basics to prepare ahead of time that can serve as the base of your meals are:
- Beans (black beans, northern beans, kidney beans are great to add to dishes for additional protein and fiber)
- Roasted Veggies (I make a large pan to add to meals or for sides through the week)
Keep Sides Simple
Simplify, simplify, simplify! For sides we often have a simple side salad or heat up some frozen veggies to serve on the side (adding some flavorful seasonings can give them a little extra flavor).
Have Easy Fall Back Options
I always make sure to pick up a few easy, healthier options when we make our bi-weekly Sam’s Club trips! You never know when your day can go off schedule and I love having simple, but healthier options to have on hand for the days when we are short on time or just don’t feel like cooking much. A family favorite is Tyson Grilled and Ready® Chicken Strips as they are perfect for quickly heating to add to a salad, for making chicken sandwiches or wraps or just eating alongside a starch and veggie. For mornings, I love grabbing a Jimmy Dean Delights® English Muffin (the turkey sausage, egg white and cheese is my favorite and it’s only 260 calories and packed with 17 grams of protein) when I need to eat and go in the mornings.
I ALWAYS make sure that there are extras leftover when I make dinners. Our dinner leftovers most often are repeated throughout the week for lunches and it saves so much time when it comes to prepping food.
One Soup or Stew
Soups and stews are the perfect meal that can serve a large group, are usually healthier options, are budget friendly and that often yields leftovers. I prepare one hearty soup weekly loaded with proteins (you can easily add the proteins, like chicken breasts, that you prepared earlier in the week), beans, and veggies. A few favorites: chicken tortilla soup, chilis, chicken noodles, and beef stew.
Shop The Sales
Before our shopping trips, I look over the sales ad and see what is on sale that week or month. Sam’s Club always has lots of great deals and specials and I fully take advantage of them. I often see what items are on sale and build my weekly menu based on sales and seasonal fruits and veggies.
This simple and delicious recipe for Shredded and Crispy Chipotle Chicken is SO good and so easy to make. I usually make mine in my pressure cooker, but you can also use a slow cooker to make. The little extra work of putting it under the broiler to brown and crisp is worth the extra effort and time (only 5 extra minutes!). I love that the chicken can be used throughout the week in so many ways and the taste is just out of this world yummy! I love using this chicken on rice, quinoa, in salads, quesadillas, nachos or even throw it into the crock pot with some broth and veggies for a spicy soup.
Be sure to stock up on healthier for you food and snack options on your next Sam’s Club trip to save money and fuel your body with nutritious foods. You can find Tyson® Frozen Chicken Breasts and Jimmy Dean Delights® English Muffins in the frozen food aisle.
Do you have any great meal planning tips or favorite recipes?