If you are working towards a healthier lifestyle than meal planning will be a critical piece that will help you stay on track.
Here is why…
First, it takes the guess work out of what you are going to do each day. Knowing what you are going to make and having the items ready will really help in making sure you can make a healthy meal.
Also, it can really save you money. Only buying what you need and not guessing at the grocery store. Then near the end of the week if you didn’t eat what you bought you could be wasting it. It does also make shopping easier and quicker. You will find that you will have a system and it will be super easy to get through the grocery store. Just stay focused! Don’t get distracted by that chip aisle.
Meal planning can be overwhelming. There are a lot of amazing healthy recipes out there, but a lot of these healthy recipes often include so many ingredients your grocery list ends up twice as long as it used to be and you don’t really see the money saving part.
So my first tip…
Start of Simple.
Start off with the basics, protein, veggies, and a healthy carb. Pick 7 days worth of meats, 7 days of veggies and have healthy grains on hand. I generally keep a mix of healthy grains in my pantry. Quinoa, Couscous, Brown Rice, and Whole Grain Pasta. This allows me to mix it up a little.
Then Add On
Start off with one or two new recipes a week. Slowly build a library of recipes you can revert back to. I use pinterest to do this. I have different boards that I save different healthy recipes to. Then I have a “For Dinner This Week” board that I store any recipes I will need to revert back to when it’s time to cook. Then if I enjoyed the recipe and would repeat it, I move that recipe to “Healthy Meals to Repeat.” This way I can go back into the bank of recipes I really liked.
With just doing one or two new recipes a week if you have to buy new ingredients you will slowly build up what spices and different things you will use. If you have something you bought this week new then next week when you search for your new recipe search for healthy recipes with “_________” (your new item) this way you can use this ingredient again next week.
Search for One Pan Recipes or Slow Cooker
This is my favorite way to cook. I like to be able to toss everything in one pan and let it cook. I prefer things I can just toss together and bake. For example, this Chicken and Eggplant one tray recipes. It’s super simple. Slow Cooker recipes are nice too for the same reason. You can mix all your ingredients in and let the slow cooker do the work.
If you can tolerate it, repeat meals throughout the week. I do this for breakfast and lunch usually. I will eat the same breakfast every day for a week. This keeps meal planning easy. Sometimes its something as simple as Oatmeal with peanut butter and honey. Which I can quickly put together every day. Or if I am tired of that I may make something on Sunday that I can reheat each day. For example, this homemade frozen breakfast sandwich. If it’s too much to do the same thing every day, then maybe make two recipes and then switch it up every other day. Find what works best for you.
Have Healthy Leftovers
If you’re not exactly sold on eating the same lunch every day then make left overs from your healthy dinner. This way you don’t need to prep much in advanced. Just make sure you can make double of what you are making for dinner. This can help simplify meal prep. This is something you will want to know ahead of time when you are meal planning. Some meals are super easy to have left overs for and some are not. So when you are planning have some sort of indicator that this meal will have left overs so you do not need to plan of lunch the next day.
Have A Couple Staples
This is important, for those weeks you just don’t have time to really sit down and plan. Having some items that you can just quickly add to your list, that are easy and healthy. I have my staple breakfast that I don’t need to prepare much ahead of time, which is oatmeal with peanut butter or a fruit. I have a staple lunch, which is salad. You can buy pre chopped lettuce, grape tomatoes, yellow peppers, some feta. All you need to do is cook some chicken and I can toss one together quickly in the morning or the night before. Does not take a lot of cook or prep time.
Plan Healthy Snacks
You are going to snack during the day. In fact, I encourage you to. If you go too long without eating between meals this could result in lower energy and over eating when you do get to eat. So have some snacks ready, some easy to grab and go ones. This will prevent you from grabbing something unhealthy. When you are hungry and ready to snack you don’t want to spend a lot of time preparing it. Chop up veggies ahead of time, my husband likes celery and peanut butter. Have an apple or banana on hand. Both also great with peanut butter. … I really like peanut butter. Plain yogurt and fruit. Popcorn, and not the microwaved bag kind. Real popcorn.
Start simple and small.
Start with trying one or two new recipes a week.
Try one pan or slow cooker recipes to make cooking simple.
Repeat meals during the week to simplify the different meals you prepare
Try left overs from dinner to reduce your prep time.
Have some go to meals, so when you do not have the time you at least have something you can do.
Plan easy to grab healthy snacks.
Hope this helps! Share any tips in the comments that have really worked for you!