This is the ultimate meal planning guide. You hear us constantly talk about meal planning and how much we love doing it.
And really, what’s not to love?
- It’s simple
- It’s easy to do
- And it saves time
But still, many of our clients aren’t making meal planning a part of their weekly routine. And we think it’s because they may be going about it all wrong. Does meal planning have to be a complicated thing? Do you have to create a new recipe for breakfast, lunch and dinner to reach your health goals?
In this Ultimate Meal Planning Guide, we clear out the clutter and share all of our secrets for making meal planning work. You’ll learn how to plan and prep appropriately to meet your health goals without exhausting all of your time and energy.
What are the benefits?
A huge advantage to meal planning is that you will actually gain time. Think about it. How much time do you spend a week either at the grocery store, preparing meals, cooking, and then cleaning up? With meal planning, you can free up much of this time by just devoting a couple of hours a week to planning and preparing in advance. We like to do our meal planning on weekends, and prep many of our meals Sunday so they’re ready for the work week. This added time allows us to spend more time doing the things we love.
Our favorite benefit of meal planning: saving money. Who can’t afford to save a penny here and there? Through meal planning, you won’t wander the aisles picking up things you don’t need and you will also eat out less often. Trust us, your bank account will thank you in the end.
FOOD HEAVEN’S ULTIMATE MEAL PLANNING GUIDE
Stick to the plan and meet your goals. It’s as simple as that. When you have a plan in place, you are much less likely to run through that drive through or feel stressed about what’s for dinner. Meal planning does not necessarily mean that you have to have every meal and snack ready to go. It simply means that you have a plan in place that will make it easier to eat healthy and ease the stress of preparing meals.
Step 1: Devote Time to Plan
Taking the time to do some meal planning is essential. Pick a day that works for your schedule to sit down and map out what you’re going to eat for the week. Be realistic. If you know that you have plans to eat out with friends one night that week, plan that into your meal plan. If you know that you are in a rush in the mornings, choose a meal that will help you get out the door more quickly like smoothies or oatmeal.
Only choose 1-2 new recipes a week so that you don’t overwhelm yourself. You can prep food for a whole week at a time, for just a couple of days, or just for those tricky meals that you know you want to have prepared beforehand. Once you have your plan, make a list of all the ingredients that you need. Separate the list into groups as they are laid out in your grocery store to get you in and out more quickly. But how do you choose which meals to make? You have a few options for where to choose meals from:
- Use healthy meals you already have in your repertoire. It’s always best to start with what you know and love.
Visit some of your favorite sites to get meal ideas (try to find recipes that are SIMPLE and include at least one vegetable):
These are some of our faves to find recipes and healthy tips:
- Abby’s Kitchen (everything + healthy)
- Nutrition Stripped (dairy free and gluten free)
- Minimalist Baker (gluten free and mostly vegan)
- Cookie and Kate (includes everything + mostly healthy)
- Pinch of Yum (includes everything and lists nutrition facts of recipes)
Sticking to basics each week is also a huge help. We have basics that we like to prep on a regular basis like:
- A big batch of quinoa – that can be remixed into different dishes
- Greens and veggies for salads and scrambles
- Egg muffins
- Overnight Oats
- Homemade almond or cashew milk
- Beans – we love using a pressure cooker to stretch the food dollar and save time (Check out the one we use here)
- Coconut or Greek yogurt mixed with chopped almonds
Step 2: Balance
Be sure to plan meals and snacks that are balanced. When planning meals, aim for ¼ of your plate protein, ¼ of your plate carbohydrates, and ½ of the plate non-starchy vegetables. Have snack options ready, for when you’re hungry in-between meals. Some of our favorite snacks include fruits, nuts & seeds, and dark chocolate.
Step 3: Take Inventory
Before you run off to the store, be sure to check your own cabinets and storage to see which ingredients you still need to buy. This will ensure that you don’t buy things you already have. Once you know what’s there, make sure to cross it off your grocery list to avoid buying unnecessary items.
Step 4: Prep Away
Wash, chop, cut, dice, and portion. Chop all of your fruits and vegetables, cook your grains, wash your greens, and store in airtight containers. Investing in good tupperware will be one of the most important keys to meal prepping so that your fruits, vegetables, and pre-prepped meals stay good throughout the week.
Step 5: Enjoy
Make sure to plan for meals that you will actually enjoy! No one wants bland rice and vegetables every night (unless that’s what you like). Find recipes with flavors and ingredients that will make you look forward to your meals. Stock up on spices, herbs, oils, vinegars, and sauces that will liven up your meals. Make this a time to get creative and have some fun in the kitchen.
Meal planning is a major key to success with your health goals. It will help in achieving and maintaining your healthy eating goals. For more ideas and sample meal plans, check out our 28 Day Plant-Powered Health Reboot cookbook, where we teach you how to plan and meal prep with guides, shopping lists, and delicious recipes.
How many of you have meal prepped before? Share your pro meal planning tips in the comments below!