Cooking can be easy, but meal planning is a whole different ball game. With the right mindset and the following tips, meal planning can become a positive habit that can be easily implemented into your weekly routine. Once you establish a meal planning schedule, it will help you save money, reduce food waste, reduce stress, save time, add variety to your week and allows you to allocate more time for family, friends and active living. Establish realistic expectations Before you head to the grocery store, take a moment to outline your goals and take a look at the week ahead. If you’re new to meal planning, think about setting smaller goals to avoid overwhelm. For example, if you find yourself scrambling first thing in the morning and skipping breakfast, focus on preparing breakfast the night before. Next, take a look at your schedule for the upcoming week. Between work, staying active and social commitments, it can be difficult to find time to prep and cook. Make note of how many meals you can realistically make within the week and pencil in your meal prep into your calendar. It’s time we make meal prep and cooking a priority. Gather your recipes Once you’ve established your goals and know how many meals you need for the week, the next step is to gather your recipes. But before you start, do an inventory check of your pantry, freezer and fridge. This will help narrow down your recipe search and avoid food waste, ultimately saving you time and money. If you anticipate a busy week ahead, try batch cooking to save you time. Not sure what to make? Check out Dr. Melissa Carr’s tips on preparing a healthy one pot meal. They’re easy to prepare, super delicious, and good for you—with no major clean-up to worry about afterwards. Make a grocery list Begin by grouping ingredients together by departments in the grocery store: fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, frozen foods and packaged foods. Cross off any items you already have in your pantry and make note of foods you need to stock up on. Meal prep and batch cook Now that you have your recipes noted and all the necessary ingredients, it’s time to prep. Your meal preparation depends on the recipes you chose and your schedule for the week. Set aside an hour on Sunday for chopping and batch cooking. Washing herbs, chopping and roasting veggies and cooking a batch of rice or chicken ahead of time is a huge time saver. Meal planning is a practice that challenges you in many ways yet in the end is very rewarding allowing you to make more time for what matters to you, reduces food waste and empowers you to eat well. As you progress through it, you will begin to learn what works for you and your lifestyle. Justyna Zarzeczny is SierraSil’s Customer Service Associate and Marketing coordinator, as well as a nutritionist in training whose focus is on seasonal eating and personalized nutrition. She truly believes anyone can achieve a fulfilling and healthy life by tuning into their body, immersing themselves in nature and facing challenges with confidence and strength. Justyna founded ThriveWithTheSeasons.com, where she shares recipes, nutrition information and offers personalized meal plans.