3 Simple Ways to Meal Plan
The easiest way to stay on track with your diet is to plan ahead and meal prep. It's simple. If you have good healthy food cooked and ready to eat, you're more likely to stay on track. Has lunch time ever rolled around and you forgot to pack food, so you wind up at a restaurant trying to make a healthy choice, only to get more food than you need, or food that's cooked in too much oil, or loaded with dressing? Sure you can eat out and still eat healthy, but in the long run, packing your lunches and planning your dinners is going to help you achieve your goals a lot faster (and save you money). Whether your goal is to improve your overall health, lose weight, gain weight, improve your athletic performance, prep for a compeition, or look good for a big event, by implementing one of these approaches to your meal planning routine, you're preparing yourself for success.
There are so many different ways to go about meal prepping. Choose one that fits your schedule, budget, cooking abilities and goals best. I'm going to outline 3 approaches I'd recommend trying.
For those who like to cook and enjoy variety - Plan out all of your recipes for 1-2 weeks
Find 7 new recipes to try. Search your favorite blogs, Pinterest, Foodgawker, cookbooks, etc. Try to choose recipes every week with overlapping ingredients. This makes it easier when you're grocery shopping and allows you to buy in bulk. For example, if you find a recipe you like with chicken, try to find a few more with chicken. If you find a recipe that calls for tomatoes or quinoa, try to find more recipes with those ingredients.
Scale the recipe to how many people you'll be cooking for. Then double it so you can get two meals out of it. Dinner one night and lunch the next. So if you're cooking for 2 and the recipes makes 4 servings, that's perfect. If you're cooking for 2 and the recipe only makes 2 servings, double the amount of ingredients. Then add everything to your shopping list (unless you already have it at home).
Don't be scared of leftovers. If you get a few more meals out of a recipe then you planned thats okay. Eat it for another day or freeze them. You can also save one of your recipes for next week if you're still eating leftovers.
Slow cooker meals are great. Especially if you're busy. Plan ahead and pop them in the crock pot before you leave for work.
Schedule your meal planning days each week. Have time set aside each week where you find your meals, write out your shopping list, grocery shop and meal prep. If you plan to cook every night find quick recipes or slow cooker recipes. After dinner put the leftovers in a tupperware for lunch the next day.
For the less adventurous who can eat the same thing ever day - Prep in bulk
Decide what you're going to eat. Start with protein. Figure out how many ounces you eat each week. Then choose 2 or 3 options. For example if you eat about 5 ounces of meat with lunch and 4 ounces with dinner every day, you need about 4 lbs of meat. You might purchase 2 lbs of chicken breast, 1 lb of fish, and 1 lb of beef. Then choose your carbs and vegetables. I typically buy sweet potatoes and a couple green vegetables in bulk. And I always have rice or quinoa at home. Make sure your spices are stocked and you have some of your favorite condiments on hand. Things like hummus, salsa, guacamole, barbecue sauce, mustard, lemon juice and butter that will add flavor to your meals.
Schedule your meal planning and meal prep day. Have time set aside each week where you decide what you want to eat, when you're going to grocery shop and what day or days you plan to meal prep. You may only need to meal prep a couple times a week.
Shop in bulk. Shop at places like Costco and Sam's Club for the best deals. You can always stock up on meat and keep it in the freezer.
Portion out your food. Right after you meal prep portion your meals into tupperware containers.
For the busy person with a bigger budget - Use a meal prep service
Try different companies. There are a lot of different meal prep companies out there offering a variety of meals. Find one that fits your dietary requirements, taste preference, nutrition goals and price range. You might opt for a local company that delivers fresh meals. Or a company that ships fresh or frozen meals. Or a service that sends you all of the ingredients to cook them on your own at home. I use an organic meal delivery service that offers a la cart items (protein, vegetables and starchy carbs) cooked in bulk, vacuum sealed and shipped fresh every week.
Author: Ashley Beaver, Director of Nutrition