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Take Control of Meal Times With A Meal Planner

Take Control of Meal Times With A Meal Planner

    When you decide to eat a meal out, is it because you are consciously choosing to do so? Or is it because you haven’t the time or ingredients to prepare something at home? If you are like most people, it is probably the latter. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. With a bit of planning, less than 15 minutes a week, you can cut back on your grocery bills, eat healthier, and feel better. All it takes is a meal planner.

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    Features Of A Meal Planner

    A meal planner is a just a collection of items that will allow you (or any other cooking person) to get a meal on the table with ingredients that are on hand. It will have the following items:

    • A menu plan. A menu plan is what you will eat for the meals in the coming week. It will list out all the dishes that will be prepared so you can check for nutritional balance, and also take into account family schedules.
    • Recipes. The recipes portion of the planner has two purposes: it allows you to assemble the instructions for making a meal in one place, as well as provide a basis for the next portion of the planner.
    • A shopping list. The shopping list is what allows you to have the ingredients on hand to make the meals you have planned. Nothing is worse than to start a recipe and find that you have forgotten to buy a key ingredient. By taking the ingredient list from the recipes, you can ensure you have everything on hand.
    • Reminders. These instructions would allow you to remember to start dishes on time, or pull things from the freezer. If you are planning a slow cooker dinner that takes 8 hours, you need to be reminded to get it started, or dinner won’t be done on time.

    Putting Together A Planner

    I like to keep everything together in one spot. I have assembled a meal planner using basic office supplies which allows me to keep everything in one place (the front of the refrigerator).

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    I fastened a sheet protector to the front of a poly folder. The sheet protector holds the menu plan for two weeks. For each day on the planning sheet I have a spot for any activities that are going on that might affect dinner (early evening meetings, for example); a box for the food plan, including side dishes; and a box with reminders for the next day (such as defrosting meat, or assembling the slow cooker meal for the fridge).

    Inside the folder I have sheet protectors into which I slip the recipes for each day. This makes it easy for me to find my recipes, or to hand everything over to my husband.

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    In the back pocket of the folder I keep the shopping list for the plan, and the shopping list for the next two week period. I add items as the week passes that will need to be purchased during the next shopping trip.

    I clip the entire folder to the front of the fridge using a heavy-duty magnet.

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    Using A Planner

    The first step is to fill out my planning sheet. I list out the days as well as meal-affected events such as meetings, travel and birthdays (for which we eat out). Then I look through my recipes and pick things that fit the schedule and the season. During summer we do a lot of grilling and salads, but I save the labor-intensive food for the weekends.

    At this point I have filled out the menu planner and have a pile of recipes. I record each recipe’s ingredients on a shopping list, then file it in the planner pocket for that day.

    The shopping list is then double-checked against the planner board in our kitchen for things we are out of, and also compared to our pantry ingredients to see if there is anything we already have on hand.

    With a menu planner, we are able to keep our food budget in a good place and only go out to eat when we wish to, rather than because we don’t have our acts together enough to cook. Do you have any tips for meal planning? Share below.

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    Published on July 15, 2019

    10 Simple Strategies to Make Your Life Better Starting Today

    10 Simple Strategies to Make Your Life Better Starting Today

    Habits are an important part of the direction you take your life, and — as I’ll share with you shortly — there are certain daily habits you can adopt right away that are guaranteed to improve your life.

    Think back to when you were just six or seven years old…

    At that age you probably didn’t have many habits. But, as the years went by, you picked up more and more good and bad habits.

    You may not have thought about it before, but habit forming never really stops.

    That’s why it’s never too late to change your habits and transform your life.

    So, if you feel burdened by your bad habits, start kicking them into shape by replacing them with these 10 positive, life-changing strategies:

    1. Go to Bed a Little Earlier and Wake up Earlier 

    Starting tonight, get yourself to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual. And, then make sure you get up tomorrow morning 30 minutes earlier, too. This small change can have a BIG impact on your day. 

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    Instead of furiously rushing in the morning to get ready for work, the extra time will give you a golden opportunity to start your day off on the right note. You can drink a smoothie while sitting on your porch, spend 10 minutes exercising and stretching, and still have time to read a few pages of an inspiring book.

    2. Be Grateful for the Good Things in Your Life 

    Setbacks and obstacles are inevitable in life. But, with a positive mindset, you’ll be able to overcome most of these. And, when you do, you’ll boost your self-confidence. 

    This is something you can definitely be grateful for. 

    However, if worst-case scenarios are playing out in your life, then sometimes, to stay strong, you’ll need to keep your mind on the good things that are happening to you. For example, your relationship with your partner might be crumbling, but your career is continuously getting stronger. It’d be easy to feel downtrodden and miserable about your relationship problems —  but, it would be much healthier to keep your mind and gratitude on these things that are going well, such as your career.

    3. Drink Water All Day Every Day 

    I’m sure you’ve heard the advice of drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, but are you following that advice? If not, you’re robbing your body and mind of essential hydration. 

    With the right amount of water intake a day, you’ll be amazed how good you feel — and how good you look!

    4. Take 15 Minutes to Set Goals for the Day, and Then Tackle Them One by One 

    This strategy will put your life into a new stratosphere! And, it’s very simple to do. 

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    Simply spend 15 minutes in the morning (either at home or at work) planning what you need and want to achieve during the rest of the day. Once you’ve listed your tasks, the next step is to put them into order of priority. 

    For instance, you have three things to do: catch up with your emails, write a project update, and prepare a briefing for your CEO. It’s best if you put these in order of importance. In this example, your emails can probably wait until you’ve created your CEO brief and updated your project documentation.

    5. Turn Off Your Cell Phone (or Put it on Airplane Mode) When You’re Focusing 

    A 2012 study found that even looking at a cell phone or feeling it vibrate in your pocket can significantly distract focus and reduce your ability to complete complex tasks.[1]

    It’s no surprise really, as our thoughts are subconsciously drawn towards checking our phones when they’re switched on. It’s a bad habit — but one that most of us have. However, when you need 100% focus (like I do when writing my articles), then switching your phone off, or at least putting it into airplane mode, will free your mind and supercharge your focus. Try it and see!

    6. Walk as Much as You Can 

    Have you noticed that most people’s lives are sedentary? They drive to work, sit in front of a screen all day, then drive home and binge on the latest Netflix series. It’s no wonder there’s a growing epidemic of obesity and mental health issues. 

    Our bodies are made to move — so we should move them! This can be as simple as walking up the stairs to your office instead of taking the elevator, and going out for a walk around the block at lunchtime. In the evening, instead of arriving home and crashing on the sofa; spend 20 to 30 minutes walking around your block.

    When you make these things a habit, you’ll be amazed by how much better you feel. You’ll have less stress — and more energy.

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    7. Be Mindful of Your Surroundings

    How often do you stop, think and appreciate the “here and now”? I’m guessing not very often. But, I understand why. Modern life is demanding and fast-paced. There’s precious little time to appreciate the small things. 

    But, if you want to live a healthy and happy life, you must break out of this trap. You can do this by allocating 15 to 30 minutes each day for mindful meditation. This could be in a park, in your garden, or even in your lounge. The trick is to focus 100% on your surroundings. 

    For example, if you’re outside, watch how the leaves on the trees blow around in the wind. By keeping your focus on this movement, you’ll clear your mind from your usual stresses and strains. This will give you brain a much-needed break. And, as well as improving your mental health; you’ll find your creativity gets a boost, too.

    8. Ask for Help When You Need It 

    No one can know or do everything. Which is why you shouldn’t be embarrassed to delegate tasks to others when needed, ask questions when you don’t have the answers, and work with partners and colleagues to clarify intentions. 

    When I first set up Lifehack, I tried to do everything myself: blog writing, website creation, marketing, financial planning, etc. However, I quickly learned that it was much better to hire some help. Not only did this inject some fresh ideas and inspiration into Lifehack — it also made the whole operation way more enjoyable!

    9. Practice Self Care 

    Are you looking after yourself as well as you should? If not, then take steps to improve your diet, exercise more, and to speak to yourself with encouraging words and thoughts. 

    The latter suggestion is often overlooked. But how you speak to yourself determines how you feel, what you believe, and what you achieve.

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    10. Embrace Learning 

    You cannot transform your life without learning something new. That’s because the process of change forces you to adapt. But, many people stop learning as they get older, as they find the learning process boring and bothersome. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. It can be fun and rewarding. 

    Whether you decide to learn to play guitar or study the basics of accounting — embrace learning, and begin changing your world for the better.

    I’m sure you’ll agree that these 10 strategies are simple enough for you to start putting them into action in your life. (I suggest you begin today!) 

    Nevertheless, you’ll probably need to use some extra willpower for the first 30 days or so, as this is the typical length of time it takes to create a new habit. After that, these strategies will be part of your day-to-day life, and you won’t need to think about having to do them. In other words, they’ll have become habitual actions.

    If you need any further encouragement to get started with the 10 strategies, then consider this:

    Even just adopting one of the strategies can turn the tide in your favor. But, when you implement all 10, you’ll create an unstoppable trend towards success, health and happiness.

    So start making your life better — today!

    Featured photo credit: Javier Garcia via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Deborah R. Tindell and Robert W. Bohlander, Wilkes University: The Use and Abuse of Cell Phones and Text Messaging in the Classroom: A Survey of College Students

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