In my experience, one of the biggest barriers to meal planning well is simply not knowing what to cook. The solution to this problem is actually quite simple: create a personalized recipe stockpile.
A recipe stockpile is simply a collection of meal ideas that you have stored, organized and ready to go. That way, when it’s time to plan your meal schedule, you don’t have to spend hours trying to find meals to make. Instead, you just choose off your list of reliable meals, and you’re set to go!
When you’re ready to get started, follow the three easy steps below to find and compile the best healthy recipes for your family.
Step 1: Evaluate your family’s eating reality
Take a few minutes to answer these questions honestly. I recommend writing your answers down so that you’re able to refer back to them later on.
- What are your family members’ favorite foods and meals?
- Are there foods or meals that anyone strongly dislikes?
- Any food allergies or intolerances? Dietary preferences (such as vegetarian or vegan)?
- Do you know how to cook? Do you like to cook?
- What types of meals do you prefer to cook (slow cooker meals, one pot meals, etc)?
- Any foods you hate to cook?
- Are there special kitchen tools that you do or don’t have? (For example, you probably shouldn’t plan for a bunch of slow cooker recipes if you don’t own a slow cooker.)
- How much time do you typically have to prepare meals (an hour, 30 minutes or less)?
- How many meals do you need to prepare each day (breakfast, lunch, dinner)?
- Do you need leftovers for lunches the next day?
- Do you prefer to cook and freeze extra meals ahead of time?
- What prevents you from getting meals on the table (not enough time, don’t have the right ingredients, don’t have a plan for meals ahead of time, etc.)?
Step 2: Gather your meal ideas
Start by gathering the best healthy recipes you already make on a regular basis. Then, take a few minutes to look for some new meals you’d like to try.
IMPORTANT: Consult your notes from step 1 and be realistic. If you wrote down that you only have 30 minutes to cook dinner, don’t bother gathering a bunch of recipes that take an hour to make. The best healthy recipes are not the ones that everyone’s pinning or the ones that looks beautiful on the magazine cover. The best recipe is the one that you actually make.
Where to find recipes
- Pinterest (Check out Home Cooked Happy’s Pinterest for tons of healthy meal ideas!)
- Healthy Aperture (A collection of healthy recipes from dietitians and other healthy food bloggers)
- Healthy food blogs (A few of my favorites include Skinnytaste, Pinch of Yum, Well Plated, Minimalist Baker, and Cookie + Kate)
- Cookbooks (I’m currently loving The Skinnytaste Cookbook, Skinnytaste: Fast and Slow, and The Make Ahead Cook by America’s Test Kitchen. Remember, you can often borrow cookbooks, including e-books, from your local library!)
- Food magazines (I love Cooking Light. Their website is a great source of recipes, too.)
- Ask friends and family to share their recipes!
How many recipes is enough?
In my opinion, it’s ideal to have enough recipes for at least a month’s worth of meals. That way, you’re not repeating the same meals over and over or having to look for new meal ideas every week. However, if gathering a month’s worth of recipes feels too overwhelming, then just start by finding 7-10 meal ideas you know will work for your family. You can add more recipes to your arsenal later. Ultimately, the number of meals ideas you keep on hand is a matter of personal preference, so do what works for you.
Step 3: Organize your meal ideas
Choose a storage option that will allow you to quickly and easily access your best healthy recipes when you need them. Some simple organization methods include:
- Pin recipes to a meal planning board on Pinterest
- Save your recipes in a recipe manager app like Paprika or an organizational app such as Evernote
- Use Google Drive to store and organize your recipes
- Store printed copies of recipes in an organized binder
- Write recipes on index cards and store in a recipe box.
- Keep a running list of each recipe title and where to find it (ie. if it’s in a cookbook, on a Pinterest board, etc.)
Personally, I use a combination of these methods. I save new recipes I haven’t tried to my boards on Pinterest. Then, if I make and love a recipe and want to add it into my regular meal rotation, I write it on an index card and store it in a recipe box in the kitchen. For favorite cookbook recipes, I just flag the page and keep any notes right in the book.
And that’s it! Follow these three simple steps to curate a recipe stockpile that works for you and your family. While it will take a bit of time up front to reflect on your family’s needs and gather your meal ideas, I promise that it will save you hours of meal planning time in the long run. So pour yourself another cup of coffee, and get started!
Check out these other posts from the How to Meal Plan Like a Dietitian series:
- How to Meal Plan Like a Dietitian in 6 Easy Steps
- Everything You Need to Know About Creating a Meal Schedule
- Practical Ways to Make a Better Grocery List
- How to Stock Your Pantry Like a Dietitian
- How to Stock Your Freezer Like a Dietitian
- 6 Brilliant Meal Prep Secrets to Save You Time in the Kitchen