So, you may wonder, if you're eating intuitively, and ditching diets doesn’t that mean you have to ditch the meal prep and planning too?
Absolutely not. It all boils down to intention. When done from the correct space, meal planning is a form of self-care rather than self-control. It’s about making your life easier so that you can think less about food and more about getting on with your day and doing what you love.
It’s about getting away from rules, calorie counting, rigidity, and making you feel like you’ve blown it if you go off the plan. And embracing meal planning as a way to reduce stress, budget, remembering what to put in your cart and nourishing yourself.
So, how does one meal plan? Well, to be honest, like all things, there is no one way to do a meal plan. I may do mine very differently then what works for you. And sometimes my meal plan doesn’t go to plan. Sometimes I leave out 2-3 days on the plan (mostly on weekends) so that it’s open to flexibility if we want to go out to eat, or have to use up what we’ve got in the house.
My meal planning actually starts on Monday (the day after shopping day). Because I love looking at recipes online and in books. Throughout the week, whenever I see a recipe I like on Facebook or Instagram, I “save” it. There’s even a little button on both that allows you to do it. Otherwise, if I see it on the web there are a couple places that I can store them. Pinterest is still one of my favourites and then there is also a great program called Plan To Eat that also does up handy-dandy shopping lists.
So, by Saturday, I usually have some new recipes to try along with some favourites. If you already have some favourites, start there and then you can just keep adding to your favourites list as you go.
When it comes to writing my plan, there's nothing fancy about it. Basically I just draw some columns based on the store or by grouping ingredients and scribble what I plan to eat on the other side. I go through each recipe that I have chosen and read through the ingredients, as soon as I find an ingredient that I don’t have, I write it in the appropriate column.
I also tend to keep things simple by having ‘themed’ nights. So usually Sunday is fish (I get it fresh at the market), Monday I try to have beef, Tuesday is chicken, Wednesday is soup (salad in summer), Thursday is vegetarian, Friday is usually a whole roasted chicken from the supermarket and bagged salad (usually don’t feel like cooking by then). Saturday is a "flexi-day" so either making something up with what’s in the fridge or using leftovers.
I save my favourite meals by writing them down on a word file on my computer. That way I can remember the ones we’ve both loved and go back to them whenever I need them. Some people just stick to the same thing every week with little flexibility and if that works for you, that’s fine too! I love experimenting with new recipes.
I also have to think about when I’m working late. So for example, Monday’s used to be a late night for me so I would pick out something simple (sorry honey) that my husband could make or at least get started. On Fridays, as I said before, I usually am just about over it so that’s when I get the good ol’ reliable ready-roasted chicken and salad meal.
When it comes to Breakfast, I usually stick to my favourites and simply keep the ingredients handy. You can write you ideas down for breakfast of course but unless I’m trying something new, I don’t tend to. Most days it’s either a blueberry smoothie, oats or toast on the weekend. As long as I’ve got the staples; blueberries, almond milk, eggs, oats, sourdough, peanut butter, Clean Lean Protein, I can make a variety of breakfasts.
Generally I choose 1-2 snack recipes such as protein balls or bliss balls to make also but you don’t need to. You could just write down some favourite snacks onto your shopping list (nuts, fruit, muesli bars, yogurt etc) and keep them on hand.
What about lunch? I’m going to be the first to admit that lunch can be tricky. That’s why I try hard to make a little bit extra at dinner time so that both my hubby and I have a little bit leftover for lunch. Leftovers are my go-to most days of the week and on other days I’m usually grabbing salad at The Quick Fix or soup at Café Green Door. Otherwise, good ol’ scrambled eggs it is.
This probably sounds really complicated but trust me when I say, I wouldn’t do it this way if it was. The entire thing probably takes about 30 minutes or less of total planning time on a Saturday night before shopping day.
Meal planning doesn’t have to be difficult, time consuming or rigid. Use it as a baseline, make an effort to have the ingredients on hand and life is just so so so much easier when it comes to nourishing your body.