If I could name one area where people really struggle to eat balanced meals, it’s meal planning. Meal planning is such a mental hurdle for so many of my clients. And, it’s almost always the reason why my clients resort to eating foods that don’t make them feel good. Today I’m going to walk you through the process of meal planning and how to make this habit a sustainable one.
Why Meal Plan?
Meal planning has so many incredible benefits
. Figuring out what you plan to eat for a week, can help you save money at the grocery store. If you plan for the number of meals and how much your family eats, you will only buy what you need for that week. To go along with my first point, meal planning reduces food waste
. You can use your meal planning template to repurpose leftovers and use all the produce you purchase, so nothing ends up wasting away in your fridge. Meal planning also helps you avoid food emergencies. If you are following an anti-inflammatory eating plan, it’s important to always have food in your house that you can eat. Meal planning can help you achieve this. Going through the exercise of meal planning will also help you avoid the daily battle of what to make for dinner. This will help reduce stress levels and make you feel more confident in the kitchen.
How to Meal Plan
Try to make meal planning as simple as possible when you first start out. After you get the hang of it, you can make it more complex. Start with a blank sheet of paper with the days of the week listed at the top, and 3 columns going down the side for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Look at your actual calendar for the week and figure out what days you have time to cook or prep meals, and what days you will need leftovers. Also, include any days you plan to eat out. This includes breakfast and lunch too. Choose 2-4 regular meals that your family enjoys and put those on the calendar. Think about which of these meals would make good leftovers and place them in the evening before a busy day. Or, if you have a quick and easy meal option, put that in your busy day. Think about serving sizes for these meals. Do you need to make extra to cover lunch or dinner? Do you want to eat leftovers for lunch the next day instead of making a new lunch? Increase your portions as needed. If you have room, try 1-2 new recipes. Do not pick complicated recipes unless you have the time and energy to cook them.
Fill in the remaining meals for breakfast and lunch. This includes if you make lunch for your kids, breakfasts, and/or snacks.
Your Grocery List
Now that you have your meals scheduled and planned, with the correct portion sizes, it’s time to make your grocery list. Pull out a pencil and write down every single ingredient you need and how much. Then, go through your kitchen and adjust your list to avoid buying too much or too little of an ingredient. Then, take your list and re-write it. Yes, you need to write out a second list but this time, place the items on your list in the order you shop at the grocery store. Always put your freezer food items last.
Ready to cook
Now that you have your plan and your list, I want you to time block your calendar to allow for cooking on the days you designated as cooking days. Literally, write it into your calendar so you don’t overschedule yourself or forget. I like to include which recipe I’m making so if I have time, I can prep my veggies in advance.
Getting in the habit of meal planning takes a minute, but once you get the hang of it you will never go back to not planning your meals in advance. If you need more help in this area or with your nutrition, reach out to schedule a free call with me. I’m here to help.