So often when we make unwise food decisions, it comes down to a conundrum of time. We’re busy, so we eat junk because we can get it fast. We’re tired, so we eat junk because we don’t want to cook. We’re stressed, so we eat junk because it makes us feel good in the moment (even though it will make us feel worse later).

With meal planning, you could eat well every day without sacrificing weeknight time at all. Meal planning intimidates a lot of folks, so I’ve got some easy and manageable tips almost all of us can abide by. Stop stressing and start planning today.

  1. Buy nonperishables in bulk

    Ingredients like quinoa, rice, lentils, or other beans and grains make great bases for healthy and sustaining meals. Shopping from your local grocer’s bulk session means you can get more for your buck. Plus, you can bring your own tupperware to store them in, which is a more sustainable and plastic free way to shop. It also makes your cabinets easier to stock!

  2. Write everything down

    Before you do your weekly grocery trip, write down your plan for every meal this week. Keep in mind nights that will be particularly busy, like soccer practice or dance recital nights. Write down a plan for lunches, breakfasts and even snacks too. Once everything is written down, you can account for how many meals you actually need to cook, how many leftovers you’ll get out of those meals, and exactly what you need to purchase.

  3. Find a way to keep track of recipes

    Coming up with new recipes the whole family will find exciting each week can wear you down, and keep you from wanting to cook. Try to find time throughout the month to browse a recipe website or cookbook you like, and find a way to keep track of those recipes that works for you. Whether you simply pin them to a Pinterest board, or get a little more complicated with a custom Google doc, figure out what works for you. A digital system will always be easier to access wherever you are.

  4. Rely on themes or occasions

    If you can build certain themes into each week, you can take some pressure off yourself. For example, if every Monday is Meatless Monday, your family will know not to ask for or expect burgers that night. Get creative with special occasions, like Magic Macaroni Night or French Friday, to encourage creativity and excitement throughout the house.

  5. Don’t fear the freezer

    Learn which foods freeze well, and freeze to your heart’s desire. Freezing soups and sauces is an excellent way to plan for later. Keeping meats and seafood in the freezer also means you can take advantage of deals you see at the store without stressing about cooking them that night.