Is your life busy and full? Do you struggle to find enough time to cook healthy meals? You are not alone. Meal planning can help.
One of the biggest complaints I hear about living a real food lifestyle is the lack of time to prep and cook healthy food. Most of us work away from home and have lives that keep us active and bustling. I totally get it! But as we all know, the quality of the foods we put in our bodies matters. It matters a lot.
So whether your health goal is to improve your health, lose weight, improve digestion, or have more energy, it is important to pay attention to the kinds of foods you are eating on a daily basis. Being more conscientious about the foods we put into our bodies becomes easier when we have an actual plan. This is where meal planning comes in.
What is meal planning?
Meal planning is organizing and planning the meals that you are going to eat. Meal planning means different things to different people. For some it means writing out a meticulous and detailed plan for every meal of the week. For others it means going shopping and picking out all of your favorite foods so you have breakfast, lunch, and dinner covered. And for some it means spending an entire day cooking and freezing meals to eat later on. Meal planning is a very personal thing.
Why meal plan?
Because eating good food should be easy. And ultimately, meal planning can stop that whole vicious cycle of poor food choices, improve your health AND save you time and money. Sounds good to me!
When it comes to eating healthy, meal planning is one of the easiest things you can do to set your self up for success. And there are no real rules about how to meal plan. There are so many different ways to do it. You get to experiment to figure out what works best for you and your family.
How to get started?
Just dive right in. Take a bit of time to think about the meals you and your family will need for the next week. Then take just a few moments to actually physically WRITE down what you will eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t be afraid to repeat a few meals throughout the week. Batch cooking is a life saver when it comes to eating healthy food. Think cooking a whole chicken to spread out throughout the week, or a big batch of sweet potatoes to serve for breakfast or dinner.
8 Tips for Fast and Easy Meal Planning
1. Create a place to save your favorite recipes.
Use what works for you. Some folks like hand written recipe books. Others store their recipes on their computer. However you choose to save your favorite recipes, keep it simple.
2. Find Inspiration.
Spend some time on food blogs or Pinterest searching for inspiration. I often get new ideas from my favorite bloggers, and you can search for recipes on Pinterest based on meals or ingredients.
3. Plan your meals at the beginning of each week, make a shopping list, and pick a time to shop.
Working meal planning into your regular schedule will set you up for success. Doing your planning and shopping on the same day each week works for many people.
4. Go with theme nights (burger night, soup and salad night, Mexican food night, chicken night, etc.)
So I love this idea. It gives my meal planning a framework and makes it much easier. I am sure many of you have heard of Taco Tuesday.
5. Plan for leftovers. Last night’s dinner can make for a delicious lunch today.
Make extra so you can use leftovers throughout the week for lunches and snacks. Roasting a whole chicken every week is a fantastic idea.
6. Make double batches and freeze half for later.
Cook once and eat twice. You will thank yourself later. I love pulling a healthy meal out of the freezer on a busy day.
7. Keep a well stocked pantry.
Keeping your kitchen well stocked with your favorite staples will make it easier to whip up your favorite meals. If you know you are having burger night every week, keep all of your condiments ready to go. I love having lots of healthy salad dressings in the fridge so I can whip up a salad in no time at all.
8. Pick one day of the week for food prep.
Once you have your meal plan and shopping done, spend a bit of time every week doing a bit of food prep. I often spend a couple of hours every Sunday washing and prepping vegetables and condiments for the week to come.
Need some inspiration?
Check out my RECIPES PAGE. You will find hundreds of main meals, breakfast, sides, soups, salads, and sweets. I even have a section dedicated to Whole30 if you are so inclined.
Want someone to do it for you?
Sometimes it’s good to outsource what you do not have time to do. That’s where my friends over at Real Plans come in. Real Plans is an online meal planning service. They have figured out how to create customizable meal plans that fit ANY family. Basically, Real Plans is a meal planner with super powers.
I love that you can use Real Plans to customize your meals based on your family size, your busy schedule, and your food preferences. They even create your shopping list for you and a timeline on when to prep and cook your foods. Real Plans has you covered including:
- Traditional (Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free options)
- Paleo (Primal and Autoimmune Protocol options)
- Vegetarian (Ovo-lacto)
Hope that was helpful. I know that meal planning has been a huge help in getting myself organized and in saving time and money for our family. Happy planning!
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photo credits: bigstock @undrey and @paulgrecaud