Meal Planning…it’s a hot topic as we go into the New Year. “New Year, New You”; “Lose 20 pounds as a New Years resolution”; “eat healthier”. But just how does one do meal planning and where do you even begin?
This was my debacle about 3 years ago. Hear me out on these excuses:
“Meal planning takes too long”
“I’m busy; I don’t have the time”
“What if I don’t want to eat what I have planned”
“Sometimes I just deserve to ‘treat’ myself” (aka. Daily!)
Are you connecting with any of these? Well, that was my rut. Primarily the “I’m busy”…but 3 years ago, I challenged myself to try this “menu planning craze” that everyone was getting involved with for a month. One day a week I’d sit down and plan out ALL the meals for the next WEEK (yes, you read that right, WEEK!) Let’s just stop right there. Many of you are probably going: “done reading this blog…no way I can do that!” Stick with me. Yes you can (cause I didn’t think I could either!)
I got a simple piece of paper and wrote down (Thursday nights are my meal planning time) the next week and B (Breakfast); L (Lunch); D (Dinner). And away I went. Note/key of advice: this does take about 30 minutes to do…I sit with my meal plan sheet, my grocery shopping list and right in my kitchen so I can be checking what I have in stock vs. what I need to buy. It helps!
So how do I plan?
My hubby and I are easy…we typically do protein shakes, fruit, cottage cheese or hard-boiled eggs/avocado toast. So check…that is merely making sure I have all those options in the house.
For any of those who know me, I’m a stickler for taking your lunch every day. Not only is it healthier, but it saves you SO much money every year! For lunches, I typically plan for my husband and myself to have: sandwich or salad (which I pre-make the night before); piece of fruit; savory snack (almonds, pretzels, baked pita chips) and sometimes for him, he likes a protein bar/nut bar (something with protein for a mid-afternoon snack). Check and check. Make sure we have bread, chicken breasts, lettuce and veggies and the sides. Easy.
Another SUPER easy way I do lunches is leftovers. Make dinner bigger or double the batch the night before and simply put into containers and freeze. You don’t have to have the leftovers the next day, but maybe the following week. Gives you variety and saves you time!
This is where many people say they struggle. What if you’re not hungry for what you had planned; or just a lack of creative ideas. Here’s how I’ve learned to refocus my thinking and solve these issues.
- Think of food as fuel…not as a party every night. My husband taught me this. He truly eats just enough that he is full but not stuffed and sees food as nourishment for his body. I used to be the person that food was my reward for the day. Train your mind (takes time but it works) to think of food in a different way and it’s going to change things drastically
- Keep a running log of great new healthy meals so you always have options to remind you. I have both an old-fashioned cookbook with family recipes; recipes I’ve ripped out of magazines or printed off. Then I also rely on my Pinterest page to keep my selection of meals on. Helps drastically when meal planning!
- Plan a week of dinners, but they don’t necessarily have to stick to the exact night you planned them. Sometimes I’ll plan a meal for Tuesday night but what I have planned for Friday night is what REALLY sounds good. Well, I have the ingredients for all nights in the house, so switch it up.
But our selections for dinner: typically chicken or fish with a side veggie or side salad (esp if I’m not making us a lot of salads for lunch, I’ll use up my salad ingredients this way) and then sometimes will mix in a whole grain like quinoa or wild rice. Again, if you double the batches of things, mix it up and turn them into lunch the next day, or repeat the dinner in another week or so and dinner is already made!
- It saves money. You’re not buying all these misc items at the store. Stick to your grocery list and you’ll be shocked!
- You hardly waste any food. I don’t know about you, but I HATE wasting food. If milk goes bad, or didn’t eat a fresh veggie in enough time and it rots. There’s something about waste that just gets to me (thus why I do leftovers a lot too!)
- Make a bulk: There are times with meal planning that I will now double a batch of homemade soup for the pure reason of meal planning for the next week! Put it in the freezer and dinner is already done! Or be smart when cooking—if I know I’m going to need a grilled piece of chicken to go into a casserole or dish the following night and my hubby is grilling chicken for us that night, I’ll make a note: “Have J grill two extra pieces”
- You can AFFORD to go organic. Being in the filed of work I am with breast cancer patients and constantly talking about the importance of natural/organic foods whenever possible, by doing meal planning and not wasting, it’s very reasonable to afford to buy organic chicken, grains, fruits and veggies and STILL save money. So not only are you improving your health, but you’re feeding your body the cleanest products possible (and just wait until you start FEELING the effects of this—increased energy; sleeping better; staying full much longer).
Are you ready? If so, download here our fantastic healthy meal planning guide and worksheet to get you jumpstarted. We’ll be sharing unique and great guides like these more this year and throughout the month of January, I’m going to be doing a blogging series on the in’s and out’s of meal planning and, how for me, that 30-day challenge truly changed our health. Join me on this journey; give me your thoughts/questions/meal plan ideas or recipes. We’d love to feature them here! It’s an easy, healthy and great way to save time, money and get your health in tip-top shape! Cheers to 2018 (and meal planning!)