Planning and prepping your meals in advance – popular with the health and fitness crowd – is a simple way to save time and money each month, not to mention cut down on unhealthy dining out!

And, preparing home-cooked meals for your family not only reduces your grocery budget (think buying in bulk!), it’s a healthy alternative to fast food.

Here are a few tips and ideas to get you started:

  1. Decide how you want to do your meal planning. Some people like to prep all their meals for the week on “Meal Prep Sunday,” or semiweekly on Sunday and Wednesday, and some will plan out monthly meal schedules.

    If you’re just starting out with this concept, start with weekly planning until you get the hang of it.

  2. Make a list of your family’s regular and favorite meals, including side dishes. For example, lasagna with salad and garlic bread, or tacos and rice and beans.

    Try to look for simple meals to help reduce your prep time.
  3. Use a calendar and designate each day with a specific meal (e.g., meatless Mondays, casserole Tuesdays, etc.), to make it easier to plan your meals around certain days. 

    But don’t be too set on the plan; make sure you can switch around dinners if schedules change and unexpected meetings come up.

  4. Create your grocery list around your set meal plan.

    Check your pantry and freezer to make sure you don’t place duplicate items on your list if you already have them on hand. Scout your grocery store ads for sales on the items you need, or buy items in bulk at the wholesale clubs.

  5. Make sure you have food storage containers to divide and store your meals.

    With a little planning and smart shopping, you can turn your family’s mealtime prep into a healthy and hassle-free experience. Bon appétit!

Your turn: Tell us your meal prep tips – leave a comment below.