Just the mention of meal planning can send chills down our spine. Planning anything in these busy times can be difficult, and seem at times impossible to do. Relax, take a deep breath, and trust me when I say, “Meal planning is simple.”
The time has come to make meal time part of your healthy lifestyle, and the worry of what to cook off of your plate, pun intended.
It comes around every day, several times a day; we can’t escape it, it is going to happen. It’s time for us to stop running from it, and face this dilemma head on; and win the war at meal time. First of all we get overwhelmed when it comes to meal planning because, well, we fail to plan. So, let’s get a plan together shall we?
Break out a sheet of paper, or fire up the laptop word document of your choice and number (or bullet point etc) 1-90. Why? Well there are basically 3 meals a day and 30 days in a month (for our example). We are going to fill out those slots with food choices for the month. If the month is too much, feel free to do a week (1-21). 30 breakfast items, 30 lunch items, and 30 dinner items will fill your slots. Don’t get worried, you are about to have meal planning be one of the easiest part of your day.
If you like eggs for breakfast, put them on the list several times, in whatever way you wish for them to be done. Are you a fan of pancakes, list them on there a few times. Waffles, oatmeal, cereal, fruit, yogurt, biscuits and gravy (use sparingly), and so on; you get the idea. When you make your breakfast menu for a day make your list look like this:
1.Scrambled eggs, whole grain toast, apple
2.Oatmeal w/berries, bran muffin, melon
3.Cereal, boiled egg, banana
Once you have 30 combinations you are done. Do the same thing for lunch and dinner; and ta-da you have your meal planning whipped for the month (or week).
Here is how it all will work for you and why. Begin by looking at all of your ads that are around for that week at your local supermarkets. See what kinds of meats, produce, dairy, etc is on sale. Make most of your meals around these if at all possible. Why? Because if you do this it will always keep your menu items rotating and your cost per meal will be low. And that means more money for you. Don’t forget to incorporate reading food labels along the way to help you be even more savvy on what is best to bring to the table.
When you know what you are going to buy, it’s now time to put meals or even just the name of the meat into the remaining slots you have left. Here is one of the bonuses you will find from doing meal planning this way: if you have leftovers one time, go out to eat, decide to have something delivered, or anything else; just like that you are ahead of the game because you didn’t have to cross off a meal. Always remember you are not tied to a dish, you have options to do what you wish. You don’t have to make Thursday Lemon Pepper Chicken, just chicken will be good enough; and you can figure out what to do with it.
If your lunch is like most, then it will be the toughest one to pull off and make happen. But it is totally possible once you get into the flow. And again if you have lunch brought in or go out with the co-workers to eat, you have another bonus day for you created.
Your lunch slots should look something like this:
1.Tuna salad, tomato, cottage cheese, orange
2.Big salad, crackers with cheese, strawberries
3.Potato Soup, wheat toast (or bread), marinated tomato and cucumbers, apple
Simple, right? Absolutely.
It is here that you should know that you don’t have to do it alone. Get everyone involved in the process. Get the family involved with meal planning. Let the kids help make the list. Put everyone’s favorite on there. And when it is time to make lunches for the next day, or time to flip pancakes put them to work. Just for reference, I wouldn’t call it work; you will get better results out of your help.
Dinner is the easy one. It is when you are at home and when you know what is going to happen, it is much easier. You can even have whoever gets home first to begin some of the prep work. Anyone can start the water boiling for pasta, or wash off potatoes. If your meal planning involves something such as chili, soups, or anything that you like as a left over, you are working the system well. Just like that you have created an open date for you to not fret about. Your dinner menu planner should look like this:
1.Pork loin, baked potato, zucchini and squash, dark chocolate, blueberries
2.Spaghetti with meat sauce (wheat pasta, perhaps), garlic bread, Caesar salad, frozen yogurt
3.Stir Fry, rice pilaf, sponge cake with strawberries
4.Grilled chicken breast, grilled asparagus and tomato, quinoa, grilled endive with dressing, melon
If you don’t know have enough in your arsenal to keep it different at meal time, no problem. Feel free to go to our recipes and find some gems that are easy, healthy options. One last piece of advice: Eat your meals with food that is going to give you the most energy for getting through the day. Keep your sugar to a minimum always. Eat as much fresh as possible, and try and buy free range/organic/grass fed meats. And you should always include superfoods.
If you skip or skimp on breakfast, BIG MISTAKE! Don’t start out your trip for the day with an empty tank whatever you do. Start the day right and fuel up with fuel that is going to run your system all day. When it comes time for lunch, don’t pile on a bunch of carbohydrates.
Keep the calories low, but the fiber and vitamins high. And at dinner time, do not go hog wild because you have not eaten right all day long. Not doing these familiar suggestions is how to gain weight 101.
How is that for simple meal planning? It may take you a few minutes to look over the ads on Sunday night, and then make your list. I can assure you that it is all worth it in the end. When you know you have something to make, and you have choices in front of you what to make with what you have, meal planning is easy. So now go ahead and plan your meals with confidence and peace of mind.