I promote a Paleo direction in food choices, and I even think that most people could benefit by leaps and bounds on a Whole30. But even then, in my Lifestyle Coaching,
I encourage each person to make informed dietary decisions based on what feels right for them.
Let’s be clear though. Whether you want to eat Paleo, do a Whole30 or go Vegan, eating healthy likely means eating home cooked meals more often than not.
I have yet to meet a person who has so much free time on their hands that they can prepare, from scratch, elaborate meals 3 times a day, 7 days a week.
We all need to plan our meals ahead of time.
Planning your meals for a least a few days ahead to a full week ahead gives you control over your diet. Like a good girl or boy Scout, we simply need to Be Prepared.
Do you know what a sense of control does?
It helps you manage your stress.
One less thing to think about, right?
So I’m going to share HOW I plan my meals with you today. As opposed to offering you a meal plan, ready made. There are lots of meal plan templates out there, and if you discover a food blogger, or cookbook author you love, feel free to try theirs out for the fun of it. But going forward,
we need the tools to be able to plan for ourselves.
First of all, before setting up the Weekly Meal Plan Strategy you need to understand what you’re planning for.
- How many mouths do you feed? Do they have specific dietary considerations or preferences?
- How many meals are eaten weekly within the house? How many need to be ready to grab and be eaten away from home?
- Do you have the kind of schedule that can allow you to cook dinner every evening? Or do you get home at varying times and would rather have food you could just heat up and eat right away? (You know, instead of ordering pizza?)
- Do you do all the cooking yourself, or do you share the responsibility with one or more other people? What are their levels of interest and skill in the kitchen?
- Do you like to try new things regularly, or are you comfortable with most meals following the same basic template each week?
- Can you dedicate an afternoon to preparing some food for the week in advance?
Once you know your overall requirements, you can get down to the planning!
What do you already have in the house?
We purchase our meat in large quantities and I freeze it up in smaller batches. From here I take a look at what we already have and start my meal plans from there. I also apply this to any veggies in the fridge we didn’t get to from last week, or other stuff I’d like to get out of the fridge or cupboard.
Time to make some meal choices.
I tend to pick one of my fabulous cookbooks, flip to the index and see if they have anything for that ingredient I already have on hand. Keep in mind you can substitute along the way too. Have ground chicken in the freezer? Why not try that meatball recipe that had called for beef and see how it turns out?
Now based on what you have on hand, and what your household meal strategy is, you can start to play around with how many different meals you need to make. Keep in mind what will make great leftovers for quick grab foods, what would be easiest to make on a weeknight, and what is going to be interesting enough for your housemates to make in your place. I like to plan 4 recipes for the week, but also ensure I have some frozen burgers or sausages on hand for those nights we don’t have time, or for when my partner is cooking.
Finally, go through each recipe or meal and determine
what ingredients you need to pick up on this week’s grocery run.
I like to use an app on my phone for my grocery list. Since you already decided to base yourself off of stuff you already have, you hopefully won’t be buying anything you don’t really need. And should you not get to it this week, hopefully it’ll keep for next week’s meals plan. On that note, I try to prioritize the meals on my plan that have ingredients that won’t easily keep for a few days in the refrigerator. So we may be more likely to eat a salad earlier in the week, but a cauliflower rice later on.
As part of your grocery list, be sure to include all those staples you need and have run out of. The fruit and nuts, or in our case I make sure my partner has his yogurt and granola bars. By taking a quick inventory of your fridge and pantry before you head out to the store, you help prevent buying stuff you didn’t need, or impulse buying. (Oh and be sure to do your grocery order after eating a meal – it keeps that impulse to buy everything that looks yummy when you’re hungry at bay!)
One word of compassion – it can all seem overwhelming if you’ve never done it before. Once, I got really into sitting with a new cookbook, and counting out how many meals I needed and how many servings each recipe would make, how many leftovers etc. It took me a couple hours that week to plan it all out. That was NOT sustainable!
Be kind with yourself and know that each time you try this, each week, it’ll get easier as you learn what makes the most sense for you and your family.
One last caveat – even the best laid plans get derailed at some point along the way. You may have had it all figured out, but then you get invited out to dinner one night. But what you had planned to make that night, you won’t have time to make the next day! Don’t stress. Just cook up whatever may go bad quickly, and change your plan. And remember if you didn’t get to it this week, you can keep it for next week or plan something else entirely.
Now tell me, do you have a strategy that works for you? Please share it with me in the comments below!