Meal planning and prepping has been all the buzz for years now. And, it’s not going anywhere for good reason. Any desired outcome requires first a good plan. With our meals—or any habits we want to change or instill—a plan is crucial for success. If you do not plan for it, well it won’t happen. Let’s look at how to make meal planning and prepping a simple process set for success!
How To Lay a Solid Foundation
Step 1 Know Your Why. In any meal planning the first step is to first know your goals. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish by planning your meals. Is it to save time? To eat better? To be more healthy? To loose weight? What are your goals? Now ask, why are they your goals? Why are those goals important to you? Write it down. It’s extremely important to write it down. To really know your why.
Step 2 Determine Direction. Now that you know your why, you have some direction. Perhaps you said you want to eat healthier so you can loose weight so you can be more active to experience life (on your own, with your kids, with your spouse, or for your work or your hobby) AND you are busy and need to prioritize time or it won’t happen.
Whatever your why, it is important to you and it provides your focus. In our example above, we know time and eating healthy is a priority. Those will be our 2 determining factors with all of next steps.
Step 3 Make Your Lists. From step 2 you have determined your direction, now it is time to make your lists. What types of foods would help you reach your goal? What foods are missing from your current eating habits? Which ones need to go? Which ones need to stay? What are your actual eating habits? Do you eat the healthiest at home or outside the home? How could you change this?
Write your answers down. It helps to write them down and work through the answers.
How To Incorporate into Meals
Step 4 How to Incorporate into Meals. From the previous step you should now how have a thorough list of the actual healthy foods and their quantities (healthy veggies, protein, fats, condiments) that you would like to add to your healthy eating plan. You should also have a list of where you are making the best (and no-so-good) healthy eating choices.
Now, it’s time to take the answers from your lists and determine how you can incorporate them into your daily meals. Based on those answers above at what meals could you easily add those items? Do you need to cook at home more or change your eat out destinations? Write it down.
Step 5 Choose Your Recipes. You (all of us) are more likely to eat healthy if we cook from home. The trick is you just have to do it. And, of course, that is why you are reading this article.
Now that you have identified your why, your list of healthy foods to incorporate, and which meals you’ll be cooking or eating out, it’s time to choose the recipes for the ones you cook.
The key here is to laser focus your search and stack of recipes based on your health goals. There are myriad recipes that look good, sound good and have pretty pictures, but, do they fit your criteria? Do they include foods from your list (and not others)? Are they quick and easy to make? You want to drastically simplify your recipes. Make it simple to know what you are going to cook.
Set Yourself Up For Meal Success
Step 6 Plan it. A goal without a plan is just a dream. You are all about dreaming, but you also want to experience those dreams. That is where the plan comes in. It is essential to your goal.
There are a couple of things you will need to plan to have simple healthy eating success. First, is the actual planning the meals for each week. Then, there is making the grocery list, ordering the groceries, prepping or cooking them. Take out your calendar and decide what day and time each week you will dedicate to this.
I know you are busy. I also know this is important to you. And we find time for what is important to us. Remember, without the plan (and follow through) no goal is reached.
You’ll need about 10 to 20 minutes to determine the meals for the week (unless you already have a laid out rotating menu plan). Then, about 10 minutes to make your shopping list. About 10 more to order online. Then, about 1 hour to prep and cook. Schedule your time now.
Step 7 Prepping. You have a few choices here. Some people prefer to prep all of their meals for the entire week all the way down to cooking them all at one time, dividing them into separate containers for reheating and then storing them in the frig and freezer.
Another way to approach prepping is to prepare the items for the meals (chop, divide, etc) ahead of time and then have them ready in containers to cook the day of.
A third way to prep for success is to prepare the individual pieces (cut, chop, wash, etc) and go ahead and make certain meals.
The third option is the one I typically follow. Let’s dive in there as the first two are pretty self explanatory.
On prep day, I am prepping food for half of the week, normally. That means I typically cook two days per week (and something different on Saturdays or go out to eat then).
Here’s how that works. I have a rotating monthly meal planner that I created. Each month I pull out that calendar and I know exactly what I am going to cook for every meal for the month. I can change it up or skip, of course, but I generally follow it.
You can create something like this on your own too. It frees up a ton of time and takes the thinking and overwhelm out in the midst of your busy week.
Okay, so I normally cook a meal, say a soup, and eat it for 2-3 meals. This depends on your preferences. The items that have made it onto my meal planner are so delicious, easy and quick to make, I like having them more than once. Plus, I don’t have the time or desire to cook a new meal every single day of the week. That’s why we are meal prepping!
To change up a meal you’ve cooked, if we are looking at our soup, day one and two could be just the soup. And day three may be the soup with a salad on the side, for example. There are certain meals, like ones with salmon, I only cook enough for two meals.
My Steps on Meal Prep Day
I cut and chop any veggies I need for my breakfasts (for my superfood smoothie, I portion the chopped veggie along with the berries needed and put into individual freezer packs for the entire week, sometimes more. For my delish egg dish, I chop the veggies and run the sweet potato through the processor to make hash and store these in the frig for quick access.
I wash, cut and chop any veggies I will need that day to cook my main meals and set them aside (or add to containers in frig if I am not cooking right then).
I wash, cut and chop any veggies for my other meals (lunch or dinners) that will be needed as I go along. For example, if I’m having salads, those toppings are ready to go.
Then, I cook. And, I have assembled all easy recipes for my normal day-to-day cooking. I’ve also paired meals together based on taste, but also convenience to cook. For example, if meal one is a baked salmon with roasted veggies then dinner might be a soup. On other days, there may be a salad with protein (steak, chicken, fish) and then the other meal that day might be one that required a little more prep.
It takes me all in all, about an hour to prep and cook the first meal. I’ll cook a main meal, that we’ll eat that day. And, prep the other meal for that day. These meals will then last us 3 days in some form or fashion. Plus my breakfast is prepped for the entire week. And, extra veggies are also prepped for an impromptu salad or omelet or snack, etc.
It may sound confusing or even overwhelming at first, but it is actually quite simple. And, it saves so much time and is healthier! It takes far more time to go through a drive through every day of the week for take out than to meal prep and cook at home. And definitely takes more time to eat inside a restaurant. In the time you dined in at one restaurant you could have cooked for the week (and paid for it).
Ensuring Success for Your Own Meal Plan.
As with anything, it takes some work up front to ensure success. The good news is, once you put in the work upfront to determine your why, make your lists, determine your food strengths and weaknesses, and assemble those recipes, and make the schedule, that invested time compounds and pays dividends forever. You do not have to repeat that part each week.
Schedule. Schedule. Schedule. I can not say that enough. Do not turn from this article until you have bookmarked it and scheduled a time to go through the discovery process. Do it now. Do it while it is fresh. This is your health, your longevity, the quality of your life—schedule for it and start today to live your best life now.