by Emma Hammond 2 comments
It seems to be a weekly cycle of kicking Monday morning off with big proclamations to eat healthier, hit the gym & skip the fast food line. Yet after a late work evening, grumbling belly & an empty fridge, you are yet again grabbing take out. Which is usually mindlessly gulped down on the sofa only to fall asleep in a food coma. It's not easy to balance work, family, social activities & all the other moving components of our days. Add in trying to come home & make a perfectly healthy from scratch meal nightly that will please yourself, plus possibly other pickier eaters in the household. This is exactly why I started experimenting with how meal planning can make my healthy lifestyle goals easier.So first off, why do I meal prep & how does it make my life easier:1. It makes me communicate with my spouse about my nutrition goals, needs & how ours may differ. I find far too often that people really struggle balancing their nutrition needs with their significant other, family or roommates. The husband suggests grabbing a pizza instead of a home cooked meal. When you are tired post-work, haven't planned a meal ahead or communicated that you want to focus on healthier habits you are much more likely to simply say "sure". When I am struggling with my eating habits this is also a time I tell my husband that. I ASK for extra support & accountability during weak moments throughout the week. We are a team & it just makes like easier to act as one. Plus the best part, no more "what's for dinner?" walking through the door.2. We absolutely save time & money by doing even very basic meal planning on a Sunday afternoon. Taking 5 minutes to evaluate what's in the freezer, pantry & fridge helps to make sure we don't waste, which is a pet peeve of mine. The freezer starting to overflow with leftovers? How about a freezer based menu for the week. Problem solved. In terms of time, I spend much less time wandering aimless up & down the aisles, cut down on multiple trips to the store & eating out due to an empty kitchen. All major benefits for us!3. I stick to my goals with much less stress. While eating a mostly unprocessed whole foods diet has become a natural habit over time, initially it was not nearly as easy. I felt stressed trying to find recipes & learn different cooking techniques that fit within my new lifestyle. Planning ahead allowed me to have what I needed ready, when I needed it during the busy grind of the week. I didn't have to stress over could I have made a better good choice at lunch or not having time to grab a healthy breakfast running out the door. I had a plan & that was one less barrier to my success.There are plenty of other benefits but those are the most important to ME! Everyone is different but I am willing to bet that everyone would enjoy saving time, money & being less stressed over food throughout the week.Now the next step...where to begin! This can absolutely become an overly complicated situation so let's skip that & focus on the motions to go through to get started today. We can get into nitty gritty details in another post.Step 1 - Pantry, freezer & fridge check: evaluate what you have on hand & plan ways to use any items on the way out first.Step 2 - Sit down with family to make a plan: write out a Sun-Mon calendar for the week including breakfast, lunch & dinner if needed. Add in any events that will entail eating out so you don't over plan the menu.*Tip: Having a Taco Tuesday or Italian Wednesday can take a bit of the weekly decision making out of the equation. Also plan in LEFTOVERS! We only cook 2-3 meals a week, the rest is leftovers.Step 3 - Make a grocery list based on meals selected. Write in your calendar WHEN you are going to make chosen meals. Aka do you really have time to cook a roasted chicken when you work until 7pm on Tuesday? If not plan to make in advance. choose a leftover or a quick fix meal for that night. Make sure to post the weekly calendar where the whole household can see the plan!Step 4 - Hit the store & stick to your list! I give myself 1 off the list choice based on what looks fresh & delicious. AKA still a whole food such as delicious berries or that steak I really want. Not oreos...Step 5 - Wash & get to prepping is last on today's list. Set aside an hour on Sunday or whatever day works best for you to wash veggies, chop what's needed, boil eggs, make a breakfast frittata, a big batch of sauce, roast a chicken etc etc! Make anything you can ahead of time plus have easy to snack on foods available in the front of fridge for when hunger hits.Also just to note, this is just ONE way to meal plan. Once you become more seasoned or if you live by yourself, it can be as simple as cook off a couple of proteins & have lots of ready to cook vegetables on hand. Some weeks we have a very specific menu planned. Other weeks we have easy to mix & match combos so we are able to be a bit looser with our choices. Find what works for you & play with it as you go.My last tip is to make meal planning a fun part of your routine. Attitude is everything & it doesn't have to be a drag. We work to make it fun by trying new recipes, foods we've never had or challenging ourselves to be creative with items on hand. It's not always gourmet but overtime you will increase your recipe index with ease. Do you meal plan for the week ahead? If so any tips or tricks that work for you?