I’m a planner. I always have been. As I get older, I’m getting more comfortable with leaving things open when I’m on vacation, or not having the next 5 years of my life planned down to the month. In some circumstances, however, I know planning isn’t an option, it’s necessary to keep moving forward, no matter how much it annoys me.
When it comes to my meal plan for a day or a week, if I don’t have a plan of some sort, I’m more likely to find myself off track. Sometimes that plan is simply: LOG EVERYTHING. Other times it’s putting my plan into MyFitnessPal a day or two before so I’m less tempted to eat something I didn’t plan to eat. Still other times, I’m in a spot where I can prep out every single meal for the week, including portions, and if I’m really good, piled together to quickly drop into my work bag, or pop in the microwave when I get home.
The key to this, however, is really planning. It means I spend time on weekends planning out my menus, shopping for ingredients, and then prepping meals. Sounds great in theory, right, but who has time to to do this every week? All it takes is a couple of weeks to get into the rhythm, and realize how much time it adds back to your week nights.
So where to start?
Always have a good idea of what you’ve already got in your fridge, freezer and pantry. You likely have more options in your house already than you realize. Keeping things like canned beans, frozen chicken breasts or ground turkey, and broths on hand will help you if you get in a bind. Watch for sales and stock up when you can.
I think the key to menu planning is keeping things interesting. I usually try to plan for more than one option for 2 out of 3 meals each day. This helps to ensure you don’t get tired of what you’ve made, or get the urge to order in or eat out instead.
I also try to mix things up. For example, cooking enough chicken breast for 3-4 meals but keeping it simple, with just salt & pepper, allows you to add it to a ton of different meals. Put it on top of greens and veggies with a little oil & vinegar for lunch, add some salsa, roasted veggies and black beans for a burrito or tacos.
Some things are great for reheating, quinoa is one of my favorites to make in bulk because it freezes well also, others are not, such as most fish. So make sure you know what’s good to actually cook and just reheat, versus having portions prepped to quickly cook for dinner. You can just as easily prep 5 containers of chopped veggies that you just have to pop into the oven or saute up as you can actually cooking it all in advance. Know what you like, and what’s realistic for you.
Write it Out
Once you have your meal ideas set, write out your menu. You can literally write it out, or use an online version. I love PepperPlate.com, which also has an app. I also find that it makes it harder to choose something outside of my plan if I log it into MyFitnessPal for several days at a time.
Then use your inventory to figure out what you need to get at the grocery store, and make your list. It helps you stay focused at the store, so you’re not picking up lots of random stuff that may end up going to waste. Budget friendly, and waist friendly!
Make Time to Prep
Figure out what works for your schedule and family, and MAKE TIME to do this each week. If you’re focused, you can do meal planning in less than 30 minutes, and get in and out of the grocery store in the same amount of time. Then make sure you’ve got time to cook, chop, and package up your meals. Crock pot meals are great because you can go about your day while it cooks. I’m also a fan of doing other chores while cooking. My laundry is usually done at the same time, and I’ll even get in some HIIT workouts while things are in the oven. Add some good music and you’ve got quite the nice little morning or afternoon.
Are you a meal prepper?
What’s your best meal planning or prep tip?
Will you give this a try to kick off 2015?