Life is busy and we need all the help we can get to stay on the healthy track. You MUST plan for success! If you come home tired and hungry and you don't have a plan, do you reach for a carrot stick? No, you'll be calling your favourite fast food place faster than the kids can say "I'm hungry". But if you have a plan and the tools are in place, the task seems much less daunting. Especially when you've done your prep work ahead of time!
Meal planning is the hammer in your healthy habits toolbox. Let me tell you why. With a good meal plan in place you will:
1-EAT OUT LESS - with a meal ready to come together in minutes the thought of meal preparation is much more appealing, so you will be less likely to want to stop for take out on the way home or throw another frozen pizza in the oven. You will also have lunches planned to take to work.
2-EAT HEALTHIER FOOD - By preparing your own food, you know exactly what's in it and how much. There are no hidden surprises. Restaurant food is often full of salt and fat. The more often we eat out, the more our weight will creep up.
3-WASTE LESS FOOD - If you buy just what you need, you will avoid buying more than you need and wasting food that you can't eat before spoiling.
4-EAT A VARIETY OF MEALS AND AVOID BORDOM- With a meal plan you will avoid falling into a rut and eating the same foods week after week. Use you plan to incorporate new recipes into your repertoire.
5- MAKE FEWER TRIPS TO THE GROCERY STORE - with a bit of planning, you can do all your groceries in one trip. Using more fragile ingredients early in the week and hearty ones later on, you will always have exactly what you need on hand.
6- PLAN AHEAD FOR BUSY DAYS - Save your more time consuming recipes for those days that you have more time. Plan to cook with your family members or assign meals to different family members so everyone knows who's doing what when. Don't be afraid to delegate.
7-SAVE MONEY - Wasting less food, eating out less and fewer trips to the grocery store adds up to more money to buy shoes!
8-SAVE TIME AND REDUCE STRESS - The energy and time saved by having a simple meal plan in place will amaze you. I've read that one minute planning saves you 10 minutes down the line, so how much time will 30 minutes of meal planning save you?
Need I say more?? I know that on the weeks that I make a meal plan, I eat better. On the weeks that I don't, I fall into a rut and eat the same meals over and over. BOR-ring.
So try it! Pick one day a week to gather your favourite cookbooks and grab a pen and paper. You can download printable meal planning sheets here, here and here. You can also use a bulletin board or a chalk board designated for meal planning, or make your own meal planning station like this. Sit down in the kitchen with your cup of tea, pull out your agenda or your calendar and figure out what's going on this week. Which days are busy? Which days do you have meetings? Is it someone's birthday? Are you having company? Take note of all of these things.
Open the fridge and look around. What do you have in there that needs to get used up? Do you have some kale you bought, but have no idea what to do with? Do you have 3 ripe avocados that need to be eaten by Tuesday? Plan some meals to make early in the week to use up these poor vegetables languishing in the back of your crisper drawer. And while you're at it.... if there's something that is no longer recognizable.... toss it.
Keep a list of recipes that you want to try (I like Pinterest for this). If there are old favourites keep those recipes handy. If you're keen put them on recipe cards and list the groceries you need on the back of the card. Choose a couple of old favourites and a couple of new recipes you've been meaning to try and fit them into your meal plan. Which days do you have time to cook? How long does each recipe take to prepare? Are there steps you can do ahead of time to make the meal come together faster? If recipes take some advanced planning (like soaking beans or nuts or roasting garlic) make note of this in your meal plan.
Plan breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. Plan 5 – 6 days of meals per week. Allow yourself 1-2 days for eating out or leftovers or just going with the flow. You want to leave yourself a little bit of flexibility. This isn't about removing all the spontaneity from your life! It's about simplifying and taking the stress out of meal preparation!
On busy days plan a slow cooker meal, make extra the night before or prepare something ahead that can be thrown in the oven like lasagna or better yet, delegate meal preparation to someone else! If you have a timer on your oven, learn how to work it! This can be very handy!
Go through your plan and recipes and make your grocery list. If you're an organizational wizard you can use pre-made grocery lists and just check off what you need. Go over your list twice. You don't want to end up missing a main ingredient midweek and have to run to the grocery store again when you're hungry. Shopping while you're hungry is a recipe for disaster!
There it is. Meal planning in a nutshell. Give it a try! Learn more about planning and healthy habits in Zengarry's upcoming Plant-based Lifestyle Immersion Programs. The next class begins April 7th.
Read more about embracing healthier habits here. If you found this post helpful, please share it on Facebook! Do you have any meal planning or time saving tips to share? Please leave them in the comments section below!