Menu Planning for Healthier Habits

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Menu planning. It’s one of those things you know you should do, but it seems like the kind of thing that only Martha Stewart, Gwyneth Paltrow, or some other super-organized ice queen is truly capable of. But trust us: mere mortals can and do plan menus, and they’re saving time, money, and calories doing so. Here are our favourite examples.

Eat Right Ontario offers personalized menu plans for your health and nutrition goals. There are options for active lifestyles, vegetarian eating, economical eating, and weight loss. There are also special menus for people with diabetes. Eat Right Ontario also offers a toll-free hotline for speaking with a Registered Dietician: 1-877-510-510-2.

Pepperplate is a combination app and bookmarklet service that helps you plan menus by bookmarking recipes online and then incorporating them into a schedule. The service also lets you plan shopping lists based on recipes, and schedule recipes to appear on certain dates. That way, you can plan special birthday dinners or other events, and shop for ingredients ahead of time without messing up your normal routine.

MealBoard does much the same thing as Pepperplate, but with extra features for organizing pantry ingredients and pricing ingredients to budget meals. You can also use it to organize meals by type, and by day of the week. So if one day a week is meatless, or you eat fish on Fridays, or you have a regular dinner guest with allergies, MenuBoard can help.

But what if you want something a little more basic? What if you don’t want to consult your phone or tablet or computer every time you try out a new recipe, or plan the week’s meals? Well, there are plenty of options for pencil-and-paper menu planning.

Clean Eating Magazine has weekly menu plans that correspond to the seasons, so you can pick up fresh produce and other merchandise at its peak.

Makiko Itoh, author of The Just Bento Cookbook, has a weekly menu planner with bento lunch option, that allows you to write up breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner options. You can print up the schedule and post it on the refrigerator for your whole household to see.

If you’re extremely busy and like the idea of using a slow cooker, try this schedule from Stephanie O’Dea, author of 365 Slow Cooker Suppers. For the month of October, she’s posting weekly grocery lists that correspond to slow cooker recipes.

No matter how you decide to plan your meals, you’ll need to carve out time to both plan and shop. But the organization will save time and money, and keep you from breaking down and surrendering to the lure of fast food.