4 min|Rhiannon Lockhart
5 Steps to Nail Your Meal Planning (Everytime!)Nutrition
What is meal planning?
Meal planning is associated with increased food variety and quality, as well as weight management. (1) This means you eat more nutrient-dense meals that can help with many health goals by avoiding some ultra processed foods many come to rely on when we fail to plan. (2)
For me, meal planning has always been an essential part of my weekly routine. And the beauty is that it has evolved with me and the needs of my family. What was once me mentally keeping track of what to prepare for my lunches and dinners solo is now a calendar and weekly grocery list for my family.
Helping clients find meals that work for them and their families is a big part of finding success in any dietary protocol. (3) In addition, learning the foundational steps to go from ordering out multiple times per week to consistently eating nutritious, home-cooked meals help people stick to plans and create sustainable routines.
Here are 5 steps to nail your meal planning:
1. Start small
Habit stacking is the practice of choosing one smaller habit to build before adding on something new. This can be used in meal planning by breaking down the weekly and daily practices needed to plan effectively. (4)
One way to do this is to only start meal planning for one meal per day. If you are a meal planning novice, choose the easiest meal of the day (usually this is breakfast). Choose two or three options to rotate through the week. When you have mastered this for 2 to 3 weeks, add another meal.
You can also break it down even further and start with the simplest step. Writing out the meals you want to make.
2. Write out your weekly meals
When you have your meals written out to see, it becomes easier to stick to the plan, increase variety in your weekly menu and buy the right ingredients.
I suggest clients try to pick a few meals with cross-over ingredients to reduce cooking and cleaning time. For example: quinoa can be used as a side to roast chicken, mixed with veggies for a salad or as part of a greens & protein bowl. This is known as “batch cooking”.
3. Get your groceries delivered or opt to pre-order and pick up
This is a huge time and budget saver for so many people. When you pre-order food, you can adjust what you do and don’t buy to account for your budget. It also reduces your chances of picking up an extra bag of chips as you walk past.
Typically, you can plug away at your grocery list over a few days to ensure you don’t miss anything. You can make your purchase from the comfort of your couch or directly add to your list as you scroll Pinterest looking for meal prep inspiration.
Finally, you can pick up your groceries on your way home from work or the gym. This saves your evenings or weekends battling the crowd.
I find this tip works best for busy families, those with long work days, and people who truly despise grocery shopping. Most major grocers offer both delivery and pick-up, and other delivery services that provide more local, organic and specialty products.
The only con is that the grocery store may make substitutions without contacting you, so be sure to check that you don’t want any changes made even if they don’t have the item you are looking for.
4. Cut up your vegetables
If there is just one task you can do to make your weeknight dinners more seamless: cut and wash your vegetables!
This saves so much time in the evening, and leaves you extra hands to hold your toddler while they demand more pre-dinner snacks (or is that just me?). Dinner preparation time is cut down, as is clean up. If you have ever tried to cut a cauliflower, you know how bad it can get!
Simply taking time to chop vegetables on the weekend also saves you countless hours in the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, increases your likelihood of using those items and reduces food waste. (5)
5. Separate prep and shop days
If you choose to go into a grocery store to shop instead of pickup or have them delivered, split your shopping and preparation days. This often reduces the overwhelm that comes with getting started on your meal prep journey.
When discussing meal planning and preparation, it is important to remember that it takes practice. Some people take to it easily, while others find more resistance along the way. There is no one way to plan, and it will look different for everyone.
Looking for help with planning and preparing meals for yourself or your family? Book a consultation at Integrative today.