Meal planning is one of those things that can make a huge difference in your life. Whether you want to lose weight, get healthy, get in shape for the summer or save money on food; failing to plan is planning to fail. Meal planning is tricky, because it scares many of us and gives us the feeling that we have to do extra work, but at the same time it is the most important part of getting fit.
I talk a lot about low back chronic pain in my blog and the importance of shifting to a healthier lifestyle to help the body heal. If you have been working on improving your nutrition, I strongly encourage you to read this article for tips on how to do it right and effectively!
Today I will make meal planning sound way more appealing, and even give you a boost to start doing it right now!
If this sound anything like you, you are in the right place:
- You are insanely busy, you can’t even fit eating into your schedule.
- You are always picking up meals on the go between meetings, shifts or after work.
- Meal planning just sound like another chore to be added to your already long list of things to do.
- you really don’t enjoy cooking to be honest with yourself.
Do you relate to at least one of the above? Then read on.
I am going to challenge your excuses in this blog post 😉 not because I want to be mean, but because I know I can help you shift your perspective regarding meal planning. We always have to question our habits and ideas in order to improve don’t we?
Meal planning is a BIG timer saver
It not only saves you time, but also mental energy. Wouldn’t you feel better if you didn’t have to spend 5 minutes thinking three times a day about what you should make for lunch, dinner, or where you should be getting your lunch from?
Image you had an already made for you grocery list, with everything you need to buy at once, and an already made for you planner with all the meals laid out for you.
Okay, by already made for you I do mean you will need to make it for yourself, but you only do it once or twice a month and you are ALL SET.
You seriously will save yourself countless trips to restaurants, grocery stores, cafes (which also means you will save lots of cash).
Think of last time you went out dining, there were certain things that were out of your control; and that plays a huge role in weight gain.
Let me name a few of those things:
- You cannot control the portion sizes at restaurants
- You cannot control where the food is coming from. How do you make sure that piece of chicken was not frozen twice or has tons of unknown preservatives in it?
- You cannot control the way they cook food. Most of food will be cooked with hydrogenated oils, low quality soybean oils and additives that are high in MSG to improve the taste. That healthy salad doesn’t sound so healthy after all, does it? Whole food restaurants tend to be way healthier, but also costly. It will not be sustainable to eat there every day.
- Unless you ask every time for dressing on the side, all restaurants will mix your salads and plates with sauces you don’t really want, that come in high calories and low quality ingredients.
- Many of restaurants will make their soups with canned vegetables to save resourced (sadly) so make sure you ask them if that home made soup is really home made.
Of course it is okay to dine out once in awhile and enjoy a nice dinner, but if your goal is get in shape and be healthy; eating out almost every day will not take you anyway near that goal.
Meal planning gives you more control
I don’t know about you, but I love being in control of things that are important to me. For example, my health!
Knowing what’s in your food gives you an amazing advantage because you can change portion sizes and know what’s in your food; and also have some for now, save some for later 😉
you would greatly appreciate being able to use ingredients you trust and know will help you achieve your best body or being healthy in general.Find out how you can meal plan like a proClick To Tweet
How to meal plan the right way.
Alrighty, let’s get to business. Let me show you how you can get the most of your meal planning and making it a fun, enjoyable activity, not a chore.
- Pick a day
It all starts with you picking a day, a time during the week when things are not too hectic. That can mean a Saturday or a Sunday. This is the only time you will have to do the work. You can do it all in one day (grocery list and grocery shopping) or you can have a time to think about your meals and another time for your trip. There is no right or wrong to do this part, it all depends on what works best for you.
Also, if this applies to you, ask your family or spouse what they also would like to eat that following week, it will help you organise your meals even faster.
- Get busy
This is the fun part. This is when you will use all those cook books you bought when they were on sale and never got to use. Look through them for healthy recipes, or make up your own. I love searching on Pinterest.com for new recipes 🙂 I am a highly visual person and a lot of them come with a print option which is convenient.
Keep it simple though, don’t overwhelm yourself. Find 2-4 and stick to those for a week, you will have leftovers from each as I will show you below.
Tip: if this is still way too much work for you, plan 2-3 meals still. Increase your meal planning every week.
- What are your busiest days
Think of the days you are busy the most: the day you have to stay late at work, activities with kids, house chores. Schedule your simplest meals that day and double the quantity. The slow cooker is great for things like that.
Tip: Double your meat quantity; chicken or beef. Save half for your next dish tomorrow. Chicken can be added to almost anything: salads, soups, pasta, vegetables.
Make a recipe folder, keep all the recipes you have printed or written in a folder so you can go back to them anytime. This will save you tons of time in the future.
You will only do most of the work once 🙂
- Grocery list
Your grocery list is a must. If you want to know how important preparing your grocery list is, checkout my post here. I also show you how to grocery shop in 15 minutes or less (pretty sweet).
- Check your fridge and pantry first. We tend to have way more food than we think we do. Do that first and see what you can use already for those recipes or meals you scheduled.
- Write down your groceries, and you are all set.
- Do not discard your grocery list. Save it in a folder as well. Saving that list will save you so much time when you want to reproduce that week of recipes. You literally won’t have to go back to your old recipes and try to find the ones you made for week ‘x’.
- Make it once, eat it twice: Always double or triple the quantity you plan to make. You will have leftovers for dinner, and lunches. You can also freeze leftovers to use in few days or the following week.
- Batch cooking carbohydrates: Brown rice, quinoa, beans, etc. Cool them all at once, and refrigerate. Most carbohydrates will be good for 2-5 day in the fridge.
- Batch chop: On a weekend or at night. Chop all the veggies and herbs at once. Place them in containers and decide which are to be frozen (cilantro, parsley) and which are to be refrigerated.
- You can make your dressings, and sauces at home. Be creative and save time looking for those at the grocery store. They tend to be hiding in between aisles. You can make them in few minutes while dinner is cooking 🙂
Putting meal planning all perspective:
Preparing 20 recipes at home is about four weeks’ worth of meals without repeating one meal – great isn’t it? Calculate how much money you just saved eating out at every one of those 20 instances.
Take action now
I always like to give an exercise at the end of my posts because what’s the point of it all if we just read something and don’t take action afterwards.
- Start today, take a look at your calendar, and locate a time when you can meal plan and cool. The more relaxed nights are when you will be making most of your meals.
- Write down the recipes or dishes you would like to eat. Check your recipe books, pinterest.com or your already made recipes cards.
- Make a list of ingredients you need, make sure to double check you pantry and fridge to see what you already have (spices, sauces, etc)
- Schedule your grocery shopping day and your meal planning day.
- Go shopping, read my thorough grocery shopping in 15 minutes guide here