Meal Planning 101

One of the most important factors in successful healthy eating is to EAT WITH A PLAN.  Clean eating often involves ditching those easy-to-grab processed foods in the pantry, drive thru, or convenience store.  If you set yourself up right and plan your eating for the week, these foods can still be pretty convenient.  Here are some of the many benefits that come with meal planning.

1.     You Save Money

Going to the grocery store with a plan in hand makes it much easier to stick to a budget because you are buying ONLY what you need.  It also prevents over-buying which can lead to wasted produce in your trash by the end of the week.

2.     Healthier Eats

With a plan in hand, you may be less likely to grab convenience foods from the freezer section or candy isle at checkout. Checking foods off your list makes it easy to only purchase nutrient-dense foods that are on your meal plan.

3.    Less Stress

Studies show that constantly making decisions throughout the day wears down our mental energy.  Having a solid meal plan makes it a brainless task to eat the foods you already decided you were going to eat at the times you planned to eat them.

4.   Save Time

Another benefit of meal planning is that it saves time in the long run! Planning ahead allows me to cook things in bulk and freeze for a future meal or make extra of a protein to use in a quick meal later in the week. In the winter, I cook a lot of slow-cooker meals and pre-make many of these to keep in the freezer so that I can just stick one in the crock-pot and go in the morning on busy days.

5.    Get Out of a Rut

Families who meal plan are more likely to try out new recipes rather than fix the same old meals over and over again.  Meal planning may encourage variety and help avoid falling into the trap of eating the same five meals each week.

 

Where to Begin

 Flexible Meal Plan

Flexible Meal Plan

For some people the idea of planning an entire week of meals is overwhelming.  So I suggest starting with just ONE day.  Plan all of your meals and snacks, write them down on a sheet of paper or post-it then set all of your food together in the fridge.  You can even set out water bottles with your entire day’s worth of water to ensure you drink it all.  Once this starts to feel less overwhelming…plan out several days during the week.

If you are feeling more adventurous, plan ALL of your dinners for the week.  This is my favorite way to go because it leaves a little flexibility in the rest of my day.  I’m a pretty organized person, but I still crave some spontaneity in my day.  Here is an example of my planned dinners for the week with improvisatory breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.

The final option is to go ALL IN!  You can take the decision making out of your daily eating entirely by planning EVERY meal and snack for the week.  This method takes more time, but then you don’t even need to track your eating throughout the week…just follow the plan.  Here is an example of an entire week’s detailed plan.

 Detailed Weekly Meal Plan

Detailed Weekly Meal Plan

 If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

Experiment with your meal planning to find the right fit for you.  Whether your meal plan is in a notebook, on the computer, or even a post it…having a plan is still far superior to “winging it.”  Please contact me if you have any questions.  I’m happy to help in anyway I can!