If there's one thing that helped me lose 80 pounds and keep it off for years, it's meal planning. Incorporating a menu plan into my weekly routine, has made a huge difference in keeping myself accountable with the food I eat. Without that structure, I eat mindlessly and without a purpose. A meal plan helped me understand my relationship with food better, what portion sizes to choose and how to make healthier choices.
Food choices play an important role in health and weight management. If making healthy changes to your diet is one of your goals and you're new to meal planning, then this Beginner's Guide To EASY Meal Planning is for you! Use these tips as your motivation to help you get started. and in under an hour, you'll have planned and shopped for your weekly meals like it's no big deal!
You don't have to do a full blown weekly meal when you're just starting out. In fact, I discourage it. You will quickly feel overwhelmed and give up.
Start small by choosing one meal every week you will plan. Maybe you start by planning dinner. Also, you don't have to plan for a full week either. Try planning dinner 5 days a week to cover the days you're busiest. Over time, this will become habit and eventually you will be able to plan all your meals for the week like no big deal.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Every Friday or Saturday, look at your schedule for the following week and think about meals that would fit best your schedule.
For example, say you have activities with the kiddos a few nights. Plan to make a casserole ahead of time that you can freeze. You could also make a simple crockpot dinner like this one that will be ready for you when you get home. Or if you you have a day you know you'll be away from home, think about what snacks you'll bring with you and which restaurants you'll eat at.
Try to anticipate hiccups that may come up during the week too so you won't find yourself stuck without food. The goal is to set realistic plans so you're not making a five course meal on a day when you have a lot to do.
Choose Easy Recipes
No one has time for complicated cooking. Meal prepping is much easier when you choose easy recipes. There's nothing wrong with baked chicken, broccoli and brown rice for dinner!
Look for recipes with 10 ingredients or less and that take less than 30 minutes to make. It helps if you make recipes that are familiar too. They take much less time to make because you've practiced them over and over again so much that you could practically make them with your eyes closed.
Write It Down
After you've done your mental planning, write it down. It doesn't have to be in a fancy meal planner, just a piece of paper. Write down the days of the week and the food you'll eat each day. Be sure to add the times you plan to eat out, when you need to take foods out to defrost and when you'll chop veggies. When you're done, place your meal plan somewhere visible. Set reminders on your phone if you need to! If you don't have time to plan, get a healthy, low calorie meal plan for awhile.
After you've written down your meals, take a peak in your refrigerator and pantry and add things to your grocery list you need.
By preparing a list of items you need ahead of time, you should be able to get in and out of the store in under 30 minutes. You can make meal prepping even easier by buying pre-cut produce, pre-packaged hard boiled eggs and individually packed products like nuts and almond butter. They may cost a little extra, but will save you big on time!
Keep certain foods stocked in your pantry and fridge at all times like nuts, seeds, granola bars, oatmeal, Greek yogurt, apples, oranges, carrots, steam vegetables, frozen fruit, etc. Having staples on hand not only encourage you to make healthier choices, but allow you to focus your meal planning on your meals which translates to spending less time on meal planning overall.
Don't Over Complicate It
The goal of meal planning is to make your life easier. Don't over complicate it with intricate recipes and convoluted menu planners. If you plan and write things down, you will be successful. Just remember to start small!