Getting Started with Meal Planning
What exactly is meal planning?
Meal planning is the practice of pre-planning what you are going to eat for a set period of days. It could be plan for a few days, all the way up to a week or so.
Meal planning involves finding recipes, shopping, preparing, sometimes cooking and then portioning out food for the set period of time. A lot of the time, you try to pick meals that have the same type of food in them to help reduce food costs and waste.
In terms of health, meal planning helps people choose, purchase and prepare healthy foods on a regular basis. Ultimately it can save time, reduce stress and decrease food waste.
In fact, meal plans have been scientifically proven to help clients eat healthier, improve health outcomes and enhance their lifestyle. Safe to say, we're a fan of it.
What are the benefits of meal planning?
There are many benefits to meal planning! Here are some of our top ones:
Reduce how much you eat out
Better for your budget
Better portion control
Saves you time in the long run
Limits the stress of "what do I eat tonight?" in the work week
Helps you control how you fuel your body a bit more thoughtfully
Lets you schedule in healthy foods with little effort
Easier to manage food sensitivities
Better for managing chronic diseases
Tools you need to start meal planning
Meal planning doesn't involve a lot of fancy-ness, but a few basic tools will help.
Storage containers to put and store your portioned meals
A healthy and optimistic mindset when going into the process
A way to research new foods (internet, Pinterest, cookbooks etc)
Grocery list on standby
Someone to help (just makes it more fun!)
If you're short on storage containers (really the only physical thing you need), the dollar store is a great place to get containers, jars, etc for storing food. You definitely don't need anything fancy.
What to consider when you start your meal plan
The best piece of advice I can give you when you're just getting started is to make a grocery list and stick to it.
Many people make a list and then forget about it when they walk into the grocery store. This can lead to a lot of impulse buying -- especially if you're hungry.
When shopping, do the outer edges of the grocery store first. The perimeter is where you'll find your food groups: fruits and veg, meats, dairy and grains. It's the inner aisles that have the processed and frozen foods. You should be doing most of your shopping on the outer edges if possible.
Another tip when starting to meal plan is to think about how much time you want to spend prepping. Is 30 minutes enough for you, or would you like to spend an hour? Pick your meals based on how much time you're willing to spend.
AND REMEMBER: Meal planning is NOT about eating fancy, over complicated meals. It can be simple veggie, protein and carbs.
Meal planning for lunch VS dinner
When meal planning for dinner, you should always plan on making extra for lunch or leftovers. Most people like a hot dinner and something simple for lunch. Whatever it is, there really isn't a difference between prepping for the two expect for personal preference.
Lunches are usually easier and quicker to put together., but that's really it.
9 tips for easy, healthy meal planning
Congrats on your first big step: Deciding to get started with meal planning! These 9 tips will help make meal planning as easy and fun as possible.
Always look in your fridge, panty and freezer before shopping so you don't double up on items. Also, it's good to build meals from the food you already have. FYI: Frozen veggies are a great (cheeper) option!
Rely on your classic meals you know and love. Meal planning doesn't need to mean trying new food every week. If anything, look to add more veggies and a healthy twist on your go-to foods you already love.
Make even more than you'll use and FREEZE meals! Since you're already meal planning and cooking, may as well save your future self some hassle and freeze extra food.
Find a meal planner that works for you. And it will involve some trial and error. Whether it's a printed weekly sheet, work book, planner, spiral note book, Pinterest sheet... whatever it is, use one that works for you. Meal planners can help make it easy and keep track of the meals you really enjoyed.
Start building up a healthy condiment and spice pantry! This includes
olive oil, vinegar, sea salt, pepper, rice, beans, pasta, etc.
Keep an eye on sales! Dried items, nuts, meats, frozen veggies etc can all be bought and stored while on sale. With prices going up so much, shop sales first.
Keep a chart on your fridge that outlines your protein, fats and carbohydrate needs, including a list of high-protein foods that are easy to grab. It takes the guesswork out of what you should eat, and how much you should eat of what.
If you do have a night you're going out for dinner, don't stress: look at the menu online early to pick out a healthy choice, and keep your meal in the fridge for the next day.
Learn and implement the 80/20 rule. 80% of your meals should be healthy with 20% being more about fun, freedom and cravings. We never want to guilt ourselves for eating food. This rule helps to build a healthy relationship with our diets will still letting us enjoy sweets and treats.