Meal planning is a simple practice that can empower you to make better choices – even when tired, stressed or your day just goes bad. Of course, simple doesn’t mean easy. But, it DOES get easier every time you do it. Meal planning used to be such a chore at our house, but now it takes less than five minutes/week. These are just some of the tips that helped us streamline the process.
Put your ‘eating time’ on the calendar as an appointment. This sounds silly, but it’s powerful. If you’re going to put your workout or yoga class on the calendar, why wouldn’t you have your breakfast or lunch time on the calendar? If it’s not on the calendar, it’s easily lost in the day. And, if your health is truly a priority, fueling yourself should be one of the first things you place on your calendar every day.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Don’t get overly ambitious with your plans. Keep your meals simple. Keep good choices accessible. Keep your schedule and energy level in mind as you plan. If you are usually tired on Wednesdays, make Wednesday leftover day.
MATCH YOUR CALENDAR TO MEALS
This is an important one. Make sure you have your calendar out as you plan your meals. Don’t plan a 60 minute dinner on a night when you only have 20 minutes. Meal time shouldn’t feel rushed or complicated. The day is rushed and complicated enough as it is! Be nice to yourself!
Once you look at your calendar, see how many meals you need to plan. With two people in the house, we often find it’s best if we come up with 3 meals for the week. Then we eat leftovers on the other 3 nights. When the girls are home, we each pick 1-2 meals and that covers us for the week. It’s nice for everyone in the house to have ‘their’ night for dinner – something to look forward to. It also takes pressure off of the ‘meal planner’ at your house. It always helps to have input so one person isn’t carrying the burden of coming up with dinner ideas all the time.
STICK ON THE FRIDGE
Put your meal plan on the fridge where you can see it. Then, when you are tired and forget what’s up, you can see it there. It gives you something to look forward to. It also serves as a guide when you ‘forget’ what the plan was.
BACK UP PLAN
I always like to have 2-3 meals as our ‘back up plan’. These are recipes that we can whip up in minutes when we are tired or something doesn’t go as planned. We always keep these ingredients in the freezer or cupboard so that if all goes South, we still have a quick easy meal we can whip up.
Maybe it’s Tuesday and you’re looking at the plan, but you really don’t want to cook that meal. Look ahead and swap one of the nights. Plans are guidelines. You are still in control! 🙂 You can always make adjustments to the plan.
NEW RECIPE NIGHT
Make a special night for a special meal – ‘new recipe night’. Most people default to 10-12 recipes over and over. But, if you have one night/week or one night/month on the calendar where you allow extra time and try a new recipe…just think how quickly you could add 5 new recipes to your rotation. Make an event of it. Light candles. Play music. Set the table. Take your time. Enjoy the process. We still love doing this every chance we get. You can even invite friends over to join you. It’s fun hanging out and cooking with friends. And, you will find this to be just as fun – perhaps even more fun – than going out to a restaurant. (And often more delicious, too!)
If you put a plan together for the week, you can get all of your shopping done at once. This is a huge time saver. And, you are much more likely to follow your plan if all of the ingredients are already sitting there and you know they will go to waste if you don’t cook them up.
KEEP A FOOD JOURNAL
If you keep a food journal for the day, you can notice how your plan is working for you. What adjustments need to be made? What happened that made this a good day or a bad day when it comes to your nutrition plan? Peek ahead at your schedule for tomorrow. This will help you ‘get hungry’ for whatever you have planned.
Make leftovers part of your plan. At our house we call it “The Kitchen Skinny Mashup”. On Sunday, we take whatever ‘leftovers’ are there from the previous week and mix them up together for an interesting lunch or early dinner. Sometimes we discover a new really good combo.
Remember Benjamin Franklin… “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
It takes practice and it takes a while to get your groove on with meal planning, but when you do, it’s such a timesaver and such a relief. It’s also so much easier to stay on track with your health goals.