Diet and Nutrition

How to Become a Meal Planner

“Fail to plan, or plan to fail.”

Personally, this quote embodies what meal planning is for my lifestyle.

Whenever I don’t plan out my meals it’s inevitable that I don’t eat as healthy throughout the week, and like clockwork a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and container of Pringles always ends up in my shopping cart…oops.

Unless I enter a grocery store armored with a set list of items I need for the week, my lack of planning sets me up for failure.

Meal planning may seem like a big chore to tack on to the already long list of things on your to-do list, but when you consider the time and money saved with a solid meal-planning process, not to mention the way and your family will be set up for healthy eating success, it’s worth the effort.

Make Appointments with Yourself

It may sound kind of silly, but setting appointments with yourself is the first step to success when it comes to meal planning.

Set an appointment for a time to sit down and map out your breakfast, lunches and dinners for the week with a meal calendar and also create a master grocery list.

This initial appointment not only keeps your grocery trips focused, but you’ll actually find yourself saving some cash by not buying duplicate items of things you already have in your kitchen or on impulse buys.

The next appointment is for your shopping trip. You may be a swing-by-the-store-everyday type of person, but the nice thing about meal planning is that one or two trips to the store per week is all it takes. I don’t know about you, but there are so many other things I’d rather do with my time than spend it getting to the store, shopping and in the check out lane. Trust me, that time racks up.

Finally, you have to set an appointment for cooking all the food you bought. While you don’t have to cook it all up at once, making larger batches of meals makes for very easy grab-and-go, which is one of the biggest plus sides to meal planning. Healthy choices are so much easier when you’ve already decided what to eat earlier in your week.

And if the sound of cooking up tons of food all at once seems overwhelming, we ask you just give it a try. By the time it’s all said and done, even including clean up, you’ll actually find you spent the same amount of time you would spend on an average day to make daily lunches and dinners, except now you’ve made food for several days.

 

Use Tools to Make it Easier

It’s easy to get stuck in cooking and eating ruts. Many people think meal planning isn’t for them because they don’t like to eat the same meals over and over, but this is a misconception.

While some people find it easier to eat the same lunch everyday, and if that’s you, that’s great! Large batches during your cooking appointment will be your go-to, but if you need more variety your plan of attack just has to be different.

If you’re in the “I need variety” group, find a couple of recipes that use common ingredients so that you can make smaller batches of recipes (for example, something that would be good for a dinner and a lunch) and then the other half of your ingredients can go to another recipe that provides you with another dinner and lunch. Yes, this will take a little more planning, but it allows for taste variety while still saving time and money in the long run.

Some of the best tools to use no matter what group you fall in is Pinterest and cookbooks. Pinterest is great for finding large batch recipes and cookbooks always offer up ideas that bring a good amount of servings. These tools are also great for coming up with new meal ideas so you don’t default to your easy dinners and meals that result in burn out. You know what I’m talking about, you have your easy, no brainer meals that become old after awhile because you’ve defaulted to them time and time again.

Now if you’re really in to making things easy, finding a meal planning app is an awesome method of syncing everything together. For example, Huckle & Goose has various plans that provide seasonal recipes and grocery lists for what you select to make that week. They have an option for how many meals you want to plan for per week and what kinds of recipes you want to receive. Not only is it easy, but their focus on seasonal and local food ensures that what you’re eating isn’t just good for your body, but for the environment and community, too.

 

Get the Proper Supplies

One word for you, Tupperware. It’ll become your best friend when you begin to meal plan.

Buy some that can hold large quantities and others that are lunchbox sized and compartmentalized so you’re not carrying an entire cooler with you to work. You find that when you meal plan you’ll no longer have to run to the place next door for a quick lunch, which usually results in entirely too many calories plus the cost racks up.

Having a calendar on your fridge with meals for the week is also a good way to stay on track with making your meals. Keeping goals and checkpoints visible means you’re more likely to accomplish them.

 

The main goal with meal planning is to give yourself a road map of healthy choices throughout the week. Routine may seem boring, but we promise it breeds achievement with your health goals, you just have to create the routine that works best for your lifestyle.

Do you have any other tips on how you meal plan? We would love to hear them!

 

 

 

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Elle Michels

Elle Michels

Based in Washington, D.C., Elle Michels is a contributing writer to Womenshealth.com.

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