How to Plan Quick, Healthy Weeknight Meals

If only we had unlimited time or resources, then eating healthy every day, at every meal, would never be a problem. But making healthy meals in a hurry or on a budget can sometimes seem downright impossible. With a little planning, though, you can do it!

Planning quick, healthy and affordable meals starts with a few essential questions:

Who am I feeding and what do we need?

Consider the ages, food preferences, and appetites of your family members, as well as how many meals and total servings you need to cover. Then make a weekly menu plan. Your plan does not have to be elaborate! Start with three or four meals or dishes you know you want to have and build out from there. Notice opportunities to use the same ingredients more than once, so you can cook and prep ahead or buy in bulk.

What do I have already and what’s on sale or in season at the market?

Many people have food in the pantry, freezer and fridge that’s just waiting to be used! Take inventory of what you have and revise your menu plan if you find things that are close to being out of date or wasted. Fresh produce is often most affordable (and tastiest) when it is in season.

Where do I find reliable recipes?

Before you invest the time in cooking, find reliable sources for recipes and instructions. Start your own library of resources, whether it’s bookmarks in your browser, dog-eared cookbooks or loose pages of recipes you’ve collected or printed (see some of our favorites listed below). Save new and complex recipes for days when you have time to relax and enjoy the process of learning as you go.

When do I have time to cook or prep and how much time do I have?

The answers to these questions help keep your menu plan realistic and your shopping list focused. Look for ways to use leftovers or make a double batch of something that keeps well, so you can cook once and eat twice. Also, many recipes have steps that can be done separately; pre-prepping can significantly reduce the time it takes you to make a meal.

Remember, menu planning doesn’t have to be all-or nothing. While you could plan your meals down to the last bite you can also stay flexible and keep a basic inventory and have some solid recipes at the ready. Even a little bit of planning can make a big difference!

Three of our go-to resources for reliable, healthy and easy-to follow recipes:

The Kitchn

Mark Bittman

Martha Rose Shulman