What is meal planning?
Planning and prepping your meals for several days at a time, normally five days. Some people prefer to plan all their meals and snacks while others only plan and prep dinners. Meal planning is completely customize-able so you can prep and plan as much or as little as you want.
Why should you meal prep?
Do you want to eat healthier, save money and time? Then meal planning is definitely for you! There is little cost to get started and you will recoup your losses in no time. So if you think you would like to try your hand at having your healthy food ready to go please check out the productivity tips of a meal planning master below!
Make a Plan.
You will need a pencil and paper and your thinking cap for this round. This is where you need to really think about what you want to try to meal prep.
- Ask yourself how many meals you eat away from home?
- What type of foods do you/your family enjoy?
- Are there any foods you wouldn’t mind eating a couple of times during your plan?
- How many days or weeks are you trying to plan for?
- Ok you know what you like right? Start with meals you know you will be willing to eat.
- Did you decide if you how many meals you will be covering? Just dinners? Maybe lunches only? Or are you going all out and doing three meals and two snacks? The decision is yours, but you do have to pick one!
Now you are ready to plug in your meals and develop your grocery list.
This part will take some time. If you planned 3 chicken lunches and 2 fish lunches, you need to know exactly how much chicken and fish you are going to need for creating all of your meals. This one takes a little practice but its totally worth it. In the beginning I would either run out of food or end up throwing food away because I over bought and couldn’t eat everything before it spoiled. So don’t skip this step especially if you are food prepping to save money!
It’s time to raid your cabinets or kiss up to your Tupperware selling friend. First lets take a look at what you have on hand. You have to have somewhere to store your food. If you have plenty of containers and jars on hand awesome your only start up cost should be time and groceries!
However if you aren’t so lucky or some of your containers are looking like they are just begging to be put out of their misery you are gonna to need to purchase some containers.
- Look for spill proof
- Nesting containers save space in cabinets and stack in the fridge
- Mason Jars will make you look fancy and hold all kinds of things
- Plastic vs. glass….to each his own really we have 20 million stressors on us daily pick whichever container type you want and don’t worry about it.
Step by Step.
This is one of your most important sanity saving areas! Do not skip it. Here is where you take out your pencil and notebook again and your grocery/menu list. Take a look at your entrees and sides. Do you have items to boil and bake? Pretend this is Thanksgiving dinner and decide what all can cook at the same time. Does your meat need to go in the oven? What else can go in the oven? How about on the stove top? I normally cook my rice, oats, and boil eggs at the same time. Such a time saver! Believe me I used to cook them one at a time because I would get one done then look down the list and see other items and be like ok time to cook this now. Grouping your cooking slashes all kinds of time. While your stove/oven is working hard you can work on items that don’t require cooking like creating individual servings of yogurt, making smoothie kits, and chopping and putting away vegetables, dips and sauces.
Ingredients and utensils.
Get everything that you will need out and on the counter unless of course it needs to be refrigerated until you’re ready for it. This includes spices, can goods, containers, saran wrap, mixing bowls etc. Along with this try to have clean sink and empty dishwasher so it won’t be a hassle cleaning up and you don’t want to stop in the middle of meal prepping because the saucepan you need is in the sink from last night’s dinner!
Take it Slow.
Meal planning and creating can be overwhelming if you bite off too much too soon. I have spent over six hours on a Sunday meal prepping and I wasn’t excited to do it again, but I did and I figured out short cuts along the way. Now it takes me about 2-3 hours depending on what all I’m preparing for this week. If I was only preparing my own meals that time would be cut in half but I’m usually preparing meals for the family in addition to my meals and snacks that I pack for work. Try starting out by prepping just one meal time. If you always find yourself rushing off to grab fast food during the work week perhaps lunches would be the perfect place to start.
Try buying ingredients that can be used for more than one dish. This saves money and you don’t have a huge grocery list. Chicken, eggs, and salad greens are great for overlapping. You can make stir fry, pasta dishes, and shredded chicken for wraps with a pack or two of chicken and they can all have different seasonings. Grab some broccoli and throw it in that pasta dish and your stir fry. Try to make your ingredients multipurpose and it will simplify so much.
Storing your Meals.
Let all of your meals completely cool before storing. I was in a hurry one day and running late for a barbecue so my food wasn’t quite ready to be refrigerated I was sadly disappointed when I ended up with a weeks worth of gray potatoes for my lunch. Cooling your food is a meal planning must! Some of the way you store your food will be determined by how much space you have available. Do you have room for a weeks worth of lunches in your fridge? I do not, so a couple of meals go in the fridge and the rest go in the freezer. Make sure you factor how much space you have in your meal prepping equation. Its a bonus if an unexpected lunch date or potluck come up all is well and my food is staying fresh in the freezer!
These productivity tips from a meal planning master will have you eating healthier, spending less money, and enjoying more free time in a jiffy! Remember one becomes a master through practice and trial and error. You have got this and you will be a master soon as well. Do you have any meal prepping tips and shortcuts that you would like to wow us with? We are dying to know!