Top 5 Meal Planning Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

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You’ve created the perfect meal plan but sometimes your meal plan and reality just don’t line up. Before you give up on meal planning forever, check out these top 5 meal planning mistakes and how to avoid them. 

Top 5 Meal Planning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

You’ve committed to eating healthier and have finally sat down and created a meal plan for the week. It was no small feat either. That first meal plan may have taken hours to create. But you did it! Pat on the back, you’re going to make it happen. Your family is going to eat so healthy this week. 

What Meal Plan?

But then, for some reason it all falls apart. You may as well crumple up that meal plan and throw it in the trash because it ain’t happening. You tried, you really did, you think to yourself as you wait in the drive-thru line. 

What went wrong? You probably committed one of these 5 meal planning mistakes. Even as someone who has been meal planning for over a decade, I have made ALL these mistakes -some repeatedly. It’s so frustrating. Instead of staying on track and feeling in control you’re suddenly scrambling. 

The good news is, even though I make these meal planning mistakes, I know how to avoid them. Sometimes we all need a reminder which is why I created a printable list you can  keep nearby when you’re doing your meal planning. Be sure to subscribe & download this helpful list from my resource library

Top 5 Meal Plan Mistakes 

1. The Mistake: Not Taking Events & Activities into Account

Meal Planning Mistakes- Planning around your schedule

You can create the perfect meal plan but if it doesn’t fit with your schedule all you’ve done is waste your time. That’s why the first step in my menu planning system is filling in the dates and events for your meal plan.

It’s Thursday night. School gets out at 3:30. Then you have to run the kids to practice from 5:30-6:30. When you get home at 7:00 there’s just enough time to eat the baked chicken & vegetable dinner  you’ve put on the menu and get the kids in bed.  Wait! That meal takes 45 minutes to cook? You don’t have 45 minutes. So when are you supposed to actually cook that delicious, healthy meal?

It’s nights like that you’re going to need to plan an on the go meal or crock-pot meal. Something you can pack and take with you to eat on the go or a meal that cooks all day and  is ready when you get home.  

But be sure to read that slow cooker recipe or you’ll be making the next mistake. 

2. The Mistake: Not Reading Recipes

Meal Planning Mistakes- Not reading the recipe

I’m really bad at just glancing over recipes. Oh, this one only takes 4 hours to make in the crock pot. Perfect! 4 hours later- wait, I’m supposed to add the vegetables and pasta during the last 30 minutes of cooking? I didn’t see that. I’m not even going to be home. Now there’s no way I can have dinner ready before the kids need to be in bed.

Unfortunately, it’s happened to me many times. I love the recipes in the Fixate Cookbooks. I know they’re healthy and they’ve got all the container counts figured out. But, sometimes I neglect to see that recipes they say take 10 minutes to prepare require already cooked ingredients. 

swedish meatball stroganoff- FIXATE

For example, The Swedish Meatball Stroganoff pictured above (which is delicious by the way) says Prep Time: 10 min Cooking Time: 11 min. A 21 minute meal, sounds perfect for busy nights. Wrong, check again! The 6th ingredient on the list is Swedish Meatballs with gravy (see recipe page 109). Wait- what?

The recipe for the actual meatballs has a prep time of 20 minutes and a cook time of 20 minutes. Now my 21 minute meal has become a meal that takes over an hour to cook. Plus, the 2nd to last ingredient is COOKED whole-grain pasta. Add another 10 minutes.

It’s still a delicious meal you just need to make sure you have time to cook it. 

3. The Mistake: Not Having Ingredients

Meal Planning Mistakes- Not having ingredients- taco ingredients, beef, taco shells, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes

There are probably many meals that you make on repeat- tacos, spaghetti. You don’t even really need to look at the recipe to make them. But what you probably do need to look at is the ingredient list. 

There have been quite a few taco Tuesdays that have turned into chicken nugget Tuesdays. Why? Because I thought I knew everything I needed to make tacos. I’ve forgotten to get shredded cheese, refried beans, lettuce and even the most important ingredients like taco shells and ground meat. You can’t make tacos without meat!

color combo meal plan cards - front & back- with ingredient list

Even if you know a recipe by heart it’s a good idea to take a look at the ingredient list to make sure you’ve got what you need. That’s why I designed my meal planning cards with the ingredient list on the back. You can chose your meals for the week and simply flip over the card to see what ingredients you need. This makes writing your grocery list quick & easy. Meal planning cards can be purchased in my shop here

Double check your pantry too. Sometimes I think I’ve got the spices I need or a can of broth only to find out I was wrong. 

4. The Mistake- Only Planning Meals for Dinner

Meal Planning Mistakes- Only planning dinner - snack foods

I see so many meal plans on Pinterest that only include dinner. That makes no sense to me. You eat more than one meal a day so you need to plan for it. Every meal is an important part of fueling your body. 

I will admit though that sometimes I’ll do a good job planning snacks and lunches for the weekdays but forget about the weekend. I end up with nothing in the house to eat for lunch on Saturday even though I just went to the grocery store. It’s silly. 

Snacks need to be planned out too. Don’t think, oh I’ll just grab something. If you don’t plan out and purchase snacks there will be nothing to grab. 

5. The Mistake- Not Having A Meal Planning System

Meal Planning Mistakes- Not Having a system - written meal plan

Meal planning can be a time consuming task if you don’t have a system. When you have a meal planning system to follow it cuts down your planning time dramatically. 

I admit, sometimes I don’t follow my own system. I’ll spend time scrolling Pinterest, trying to find new recipes. Meal planning that way takes a lot of time, especially when I’m following a portion fix meal plan

What's Working Here- 80 Day Obsession Meal Idea Cards

When I use my color combo meal plan cards I can write my meal plan in minutes. The main course cards are outlined in different colors. Each color represents a different protein category (poultry, beef, seafood, etc.). I pull one of each color to fill in my dinners. Plug in leftovers for lunch the next day. Choose two morning and two afternoon snacks to alternate for the week. For breakfast it’s usually Shakeology with a fruit. Flip the cards over to write my grocery list and I’m done. It works for me, really well.

I’ve seen meal plans where you create a 4 week menu and just rotate it every month. 

Some people like to create theme nights: Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Pasta Wednesdays, Slow Cooker Thursdays, Pizza Fridays, etc.

Find a meal planning style that works for you and stick with it.  Having a meal plan will save you time and help you stay on track with your healthy eating goals. 

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