Become a meal planning boss: My Top 10 Tips
Meal planning is one of those things that most people really WANT to do but aren’t quite sure how to get started with it, or feel overwhelmed and confused about how to please EVERYONE in the house. I’m going to share with you some of my top meal planning tips in hopes to make things a little easier for you.
Sometimes you don’t want to…
But you’re always glad you did!
- Know how much food you need to eat and ideally how much of each food group you should be eating.
- Check out my post on eating for your goals here or sign up for my next online coaching program to learn more about how to you can follow a simple guide-with my help-and eat the correct balance of the food groups for YOUR BODY & goals.
- Write it down!
- Dedicate a note book or binder to your meal plans so you can reuse them and rotate through a few plans. Here is a free download of a simple meal planner I made that you can print out and start your binder!
- Create a Routine
- For me it’s the weekend. I typically meal plan on Saturdays, shop for groceries I need for my plan, then prep some food Sundays. Do I have permission to be honest with you? I’ll take that as a yes 😉 We hall have the same 24 hours in a day. You MAKE time for what’s important to you. So if your current excuse is that you don’t have time (I thought that before too) MAKE time for it. How do you make time? Get up earlier, go to bed a little later, don’t watch as much TV, stop scrolling facebook… those are all ways that you can find an extra 30 minutes a week to make a meal plan.
- Start with dinners
- I think it is the most effective to start with dinners. I look at my schedule and see which days will be my busy days, which days I have a little more time to make dinner, and which days we are rushing out the door in the evening! I base meals off our schedule. For example, Mondays are really crazy days in the Walsh house. I know I won’t have time to be cooking an elaborate meal and I need to be out the door to teach fitness classes at my group fitness studio Focused Fitness, and then I do coach mentoring calls the rest of the night. wheeew. makes for a long day. Monday screams SLOW COOKER meals! Look for the triggers & sticking points in your schedule and plan for them.
- Lunch = Salad or Leftovers
- So if you already know your dinners and we work our way back up to breakfast I find it to be the most simple. I typically eat a salad every day with the leftover meat from the night before’s dinner. My husband leans more towards eating our whole dinner again for lunch the next day. Whatever suits your fancy, but doing this WILL simplify your life. I’d rather cook a little more food and only have to do it once then be preparing 3 meals a day AND I’m a big believer in a big salad everyday!
- Note: I know some of you may say “I don’t do leftovers.” Unfortunately we can’t have our cake and eat it too in this situation. Learn to tolerate leftovers or learn to be ok with having to physically cook every meal before you eat it. I get it! I used to not be a huge leftovers fan… but what I am a fan of is feeling good & fueling my body without having to spend extra money to buy lunch out every day or slave in the kitchen for every meal.
- Breakfast & Snacks
- Fill in the gaps. If you’re following a meal plan like I teach my my nutrition coaching clients, you’ll know by this point what you have leftover in terms of healthy fats, grains/starches, fruits, proteins, veggies, and you can just plug those in to finish you meal plan. If you aren’t follow a plan with me yet I’ll give you a quick tip. For most of you depending on your current weight & goals you’ll be eating 2-5 servings of grains & starches per day, which also tend to be the thing we easily overeat. Example 1 slice of bread = 1 serving or 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal = 1 serving. So let’s think about this. If you’re having pasta for dinner maybe you’ll need to evaluate whether oatmeal or toast would be a good choice with breakfast or not depending on your total grains & starches you’re consuming in that day. Just thing balance & moderation. For me on a day I’d be eating pasta for dinner I’d be choose eggs & berries for breakfast to offset the pasta. Make sense?
- Make your Grocery List AFTER you have a plan
- So often I see people going to the grocery store… THEN meal planning. This order is bound to leave you with unused food. If you want to be able to create a budget that allows for you to buy whole foods fresh each week we’ve got to do two things. #1 Actually eat what we buy and #2 hold back on buying things that aren’t on your meal plan for the week! By planning your snacks/meals AND actually eating what is on your plan you will save money and get better results too! Check and see what items you already have in your fridge/freezer/pantry that you can use up while you’re making your list so you aren’t buying things you already have.
- Be OK with not pleasing everyone!
- I get it. If you live with someone, or you’ve got kiddos, we live in this space where we feel like we need to make multiple meals to serve everyones preferences. How did we get here?! I was there too, but I’ll tell you what is really freeing… ONLY MAKING ONE MEAL FOR EVERYONE. Sometimes it will be something your spouse doesn’t love, sometimes it will be something you don’t love, and sometimes it will be something your kids cry & whine about a little bit. But guess what? Over time everyone will adjust and everyone will benefit from some well rounded nutrition! Even if you’re on a healthy eating journey alone that doesn’t mean your family can’t benefit too! There are so many ways to eat balanced and healthy meals the whole family can enjoy. Check out my recipes here on the blog & sign up for my free weekly recipe email. They are all enjoyed by my whole family-toddler included.
- Make a Menu Board
- Menu boards are helpful in many ways! First of all it keeps whats next on your plan at the top of your mind so you are prepared and actually make it. Another benefit is that it lets the other people in your house know whats coming so there is less shock/groaning at the dinner table and everyone can mentally prepare themselves for their favorites and not so favorites. Its a healthy change I promise.
- Have a GO TO plan
- We all go through times & seasons of life that are crazier than usual. In my house we have about 5 dinners that are easy GO TO items. My husband and I at this point both know the basic groceries it takes for that week of dinners with our eyes shut. When we are having a busy week , the weekend gets away from us, and we don’t have time to plan we immediately fall back on this plan. We have a staple grocery list and staple meals to get us through.
Meal Planning is a new skill for most people & it takes a lot of mental reprogramming. Don’t get down on yourself if the first time you sit down to meal plan it takes you a long time. This is normal! Every time you do it though it gets easier, and as you build that GO TO plan you’ll get even more comfortable. The key to success is being gracious with yourself and allowing yourself to learn and practice. No one is successful right out of the gates but the good news is that the only way to fail is to quit! So keep practicing and I promise you will become a meal planning boss too! Keep me posted on your progress and consider joining at online nutrition & fitness group coaching program with me where I can teach you more tips & tricks specific to your needs. I’d love to work with you!
Thanks for reading,