I know I have already had plenty of meal planning posts in the past but I really can’t stress how important it is. I hear so many excuses as to why people cannot meal prep from not having enough time to not knowing how or where to start. I wanted to compile all my important tools that I use for meal planning to try and lay out how to meal plan successfully and hopefully make it a less scary experience for all! Without planning your meals ahead you are really setting yourself up for a disaster or at the very least a very bumpy ride. Even a year into my weightloss journey and meal planning if I miss one week I fall off the wagon. I look at all the uncooked food in my fridge and think “McDonalds is already cooked across the street…” or “Lunchables are a balanced meal, right?”
Here are my (not so) secret weapons for successful meal planning
- Time – If you read nothing else but this key point then you are well on your way. This is the biggest excuse I hear is “I don’t have time”. What I really hear is “I don’t want to make time”. If that is offensive in anyway I am sorry but it’s true. I am fully aware people are busy and do have kids, husbands, jobs and life beyond their diets but think about if something you really wanted to do came up in your “busy” schedule. Would you make time for that? I bet if you were able to rearrange your schedule you absolutely would. Meal planning shouldn’t be any different than that thing you really want to do. We are on this journey because we really want to lose weight. How can we do that if we aren’t make time for it? Just waiting for it to magically happen? Think of it this way..Taking a couple hours out of one day of your week frees up that time for the other six. That’s a total win in my book. Yes there are days where I do not feel like meal prepping but I know what it will do for my week ahead if I don’t. Schedule meal planning just as you would something you really want to do. Because in the end you are trying to achieve something you really want!
- Lists – I feel the list part is easy. It is following the list and not straying from it that is hard! I first write out what I want for breakfast, lunch and dinner and then make a list of all the ingredients to make this happen. This is the hard part…go to the store and put the blinders on for anything beyond your list! The only time I make an exception with this is if there is a really good deal I was unaware of going into the store. And no, I do not mean buy one get one free Oreos. I am talking like super saver meat deals like BOGO steaks or something. This won’t just help you with staying on track but it will also save you a lot of money. How often do you go into a store for one thing and walk out with a cart? That’s okay when it’s fun stuff like new workout clothes or something..but this can be a disaster if you walk out with way more food than you planned on getting.
- Open Mind – Another excuse I hear often is there is not a lot of variety when it comes to meal prep. You are making the meals for the week which can sometimes (most often) mean leftovers. Unless you want to take up even more hours in your day and make a different breakfast, lunch and dinner for every day of the week then this is something that you’ll have to accept. This does not mean you will eat boiled chicken, plain white rice and steamed broccoli for 7 days straight. I tend to pick about 4 recipes and I mix and match if I want them for lunch or dinner. I may make chicken and beef for example but change my sides so it’s not the exact same meal everyday. Variety is important so that you don’t get bored and end up wanting to binge on something that you may find tastier. You can still have variety with meal prep! This is more of a concern for people who are cooking for themselves or two. For people with a family variety is far easier to make a crock pot meal or a casserole that is different for everyday.
- Kitchen Essentials – “I don’t have a chef stocked kitchen!” Yes I know I am a chef and therefore I have so many toys. However! There are only a select few things that I use on an absolute regular basis that does not take up a bunch of space and is most likely in everyone’s kitchen. My favorites include: *Floppy cutting boards in assorted colors – I use these to be able to prep meat and vegetables with ease without having to wash the cutting board every time. They are super easy to store and I can use one and toss it in the sink and grab a new one. They are simple to clean and keep the food safe from cross-contamination. *Plenty of wooden spoons and rubber spatulas. When you are cooking with a variety of pots and pans and dishing out into your tupperware containers it’s annoying if you have to keep washing the same utensils. Have plenty of back-up..they are cheap! *Herbs & Spices – Stock up on as many herbs and spices as you can! Build up a good pantry to keep your food exciting. More flavor = less missing those bad foods. *Clorox wipes – makes cleaning so much easier between prep. Really..those are the things I use most often. People can live without a vitamix and 10,000 tools from pampered chef claiming to make your life easier.
- Containers – Stock up on containers of all shapes and sizes to make it easy to portion out your food. My favorite containers are the kind you find at restaurant supply stores. I like having the same type of container for each of my meals. Call me OCD but I don’t like if one type of meal is in a square, rectangle and a round container. I like to easily distinguish which meal is which so I can grab n’ go! The ones you find at supply stores tend to be a lot cheaper for a whole ton of containers that you can stow away until you need more. If you do not have this luxury of having a restaurant supply store nearby you can find just as good containers at somewhere like Target or Walmart. Also having different sizes zipper bags is nice to have too. Snack size, gallon size, sandwich size..I don’t discriminate.
Well those are my secrets folks! Meal prep doesn’t have to be a scary thing. It just takes some organization and definitely some dedication. It may take some time to get into the routine of making your meals but I am telling you that when you get home from work and don’t have to worry about making a meal from scratch – you get addicted to it pretty quick! Still confused about how to jump in and meal plan? Send me a message! I would be glad to help you get on track to starting your new meal prepping lifestyle!