7 Tips To Help You Meal Plan

Photo by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash

There is a routine I have started that I think everyone should get on board with; meal planning. While I have tried this several times in the past, it usually fizzled out within two weeks. This time around I have successfully found a way to prepare my meals for the week, and it has been a complete game changer. Not only do I spend less time in the week making meals (meaning more time doing what I love) but I am more inclined to eat healthier when it is already established.

If you are struggling with planning your meals, I have a few tips that have helped me succeed. This is a great way to make sure you are getting proper nutrients and, if you are a meal skipper like myself, keep you accountable for eating during the day. Funny enough, preparing a meal for each day has actually helped me stay healthier and shed a few pounds. Want to start this journey successfully? Then just keep reading!

Make a list, check it twice.
Santa isn't the only one who needs a list to stay reminded. I usually do my meal planning on Saturday for the next week. My boyfriend and I make a fun day out of it. We will grab a notebook and head to our local coffee shop to make a list of everything we need. It might take you a couple of weeks to really get a handle on what you actually need, so patience is required!

For us, it is easier just to make one meal per day (for lunch). Breakfast is whatever we feel like in the morning, and we still enjoy creating a dinner each night. For your sanity, try to come up with one meal that you prep. This won't take as much time and still is beneficial. While creating our grocery list, we make sure to get a healthy amount of each food group needed like fruit, veggies, protein, grains, and snack items.

When thinking of your creations try to come up with a meal that you can repeat throughout the week. We incorporate chicken and rice with every single meal. Not only does this make the cooking process quicker but it also saves money. Don't want to eat the same lunch every day? Try buying different sauces and seasonings. Each meal is relatively the same, but we purchase different sauces (which can be found at almost all grocery stores) to make each one taste different and delicious.

Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash

Buy in bulk.
Since we incorporate rice with each meal, we always buy a large bag. We try to do this with most non-perishable items so that we only have to purchase them once a month as opposed to each week. This helps keep your bank account happy and makes life a little easier. Things that can be bought in bulk are:

  • rice or other grains
  • seasonings and sauces
  • canned foods
  • snacks (granola, trail mix, etc.)
  • protein (can always freeze)

We try to separate each bulk item throughout the month, so we don't have one grocery haul that costs a ridiculous amount. Everything else we buy for the week, which could take you a couple of tries to find what is the right portion for you and your family.

Choose healthy alternatives.
Since you are planning out your meal, you have a better chance of eating healthier. When we are starving during lunch time, we usually head to a fast food restaurant or find something that is easy to make and eat. This leads to unhealthy decisions. A regular lunch for us looks like chicken, brown rice, and some sort of veggie (potatoes, squash, zucchini, etc.).

Figure out what you like to eat and supplement that with healthier alternatives. You don't have to do the same meal we use, just find something that is easy to create in bulk and tastes delicious while still being nutritious. The reason we use brown rice is that this helps keep us full for longer. Try to get some type of food that will help fill you up, so you don't feel hungry an hour later.

I love snacking over actual meals. Since I prefer small meals throughout the day, I usually pack several small things of trail mix, fruits, and other little foods with my lunch. This way I still get in one big meal for the day but don't disrupt my bodies natural rhythm. It is okay if you snack often or need larger meals. The point is to plan for these accordingly and find options that can be easily stored a week beforehand.

Make a game of it.
You will never meal prep if it is not fun. Put on some music and create a fun atmosphere for the cooking experience. Instead of thinking of it as a chore start seeing this time as a good bonding moment. Cooking for yourself? Make this an excellent self-care ritual. There have been weeks where I had to make our meals by myself, and I still had a blast with it. Put on your favorite tunes and dance around while you cook.

If you are finding this to be too difficult to maintain, try making your meals simpler. Occasionally we prepare meals for the week that require a little more time. While we still enjoy this, it is not maintainable. By keeping the recipe simple, it frees up time and doesn't feel like a chore but a fun pastime.

Have the proper containers.
We use Pyrex containers for all of our food storage needs throughout the week. These are made of glass and range in various sizes. I personally would recommend this brand because they are easy to store in your cabinet, are dishwasher safe, and stack neatly in the refrigerator. This is a must when meal planning since you will be taking up a lot more space. Another reason I love this brand is that the sizes are perfect for portioning.

They have a circular 2 cup container that works great for snacks throughout the day and a 3 cup rectangular container that fits the perfect portion for your lunch. Whatever you use, ensure it can be easily cleaned and stack neatly. You also want to make sure to have a few more pieces than you would typically need for the week.

Having a few extras makes it a little easier when it comes to cleaning. We sometimes skip a meal or have a few that are dirty (but not enough to start a load for the dishwasher). Having the extra few saves you a step when it comes to cleaning. I would also suggest buying a large container for any leftovers. There are some days when we make a little too much of an item; this is where the more massive storage comes in handy.

Cook efficiently.
This is where simplifying your meal comes into play. Since we use rice for every meal, it makes it easier to make one large pot for the entire week. This also works for chicken as well. We will cut 6-8 pieces of chicken altogether and bake them while working on other tasks. Cooking in bulk will be the fastest way to make your creations and will make this process a lot more enjoyable.

Again, if you have a partner try to split the process between both parties. Have one chopping up veggies while the other season's food or portions each meal. Do you cook alone? You can still make the time move faster by cooking smarter. Prepare the kitchen with all the utensils and pots you will need. Then find items that can be baked. While certain foods bake it gives you the time to fry or grill any other things required for your recipe.

Change things up.
Eventually, meals get boring (even with certain seasonings). Try to change things up once a month, so it doesn't become dull. This could be as simple as picking a different protein or getting different veggies each week. When our meals become boring, we start to lose the steam we first had to prep each week. Through trial and error, you can find what meals you love and which are better left out of your kitchen.

Meal planning only has to be a chore if you want it to be. By making it fun and switching things up, you might notice yourself actually enjoying the time spent cooking. I now love my Saturday's because I get to spend quality time with my boyfriend and we have made it into a full day of fun. Treat yourself to some coffee or buy a little snack to munch on while cooking. Creating a reward system will make you crave Saturday (or whatever day you choose) that much more. Let me know in the comments below what meals you love creating for the week!


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