Meal planning can be one of those things that sounds amazing but in reality, is really dang hard. There’s really no all-encompassing solution (trust me – we’ve been trying to create it for 3 years). No one really knows your exact needs, your exact life, the way you’re going to feel when you wake up and how often or how much time you have to shop, prep, cook and eat and what you have in your refrigerator and pantry. So instead of a perfect solution, I have settled on a method + tools to make meal planning a whole lot more do-able and realistic oh and a lot more fun!
So first, the method.
I set aside about 30 minutes once a week and brew myself a cup of tea (or pour a glass of wine depending on the day) and take a peek at my calendar for the upcoming week. I figure out how many dinners/lunches I need for the week and what days I have time to cook and about how long. Then I take a peek in the fridge and pantry to get an idea of what I have on hand (I often use the search feature for AHP to search for recipes using those ingredients) that way I am reducing waste, because although Thai noodles with shrimp may sound amazing, it’s better for our wallets to use up the chicken thighs we have on hand instead of buying 20 new ingredients many of which we will probably never use again (fish sauce I’m looking at you). With A Healthy Passion, the focus is on building a pantry so that way you buy an ingredient (such as red wine vinegar or tomato paste) and you’ll see it used over and over again in recipes so it doesn’t just sit in the fridge unused until you throw it out.
I click “make me a meal plan” it’s sort of like playing Tetris. I add and subtract recipes from my planner until I have a good variety of recipes using what I have on hand that fits my needs and I feel totally ready to take on for the week ahead. I then send my grocery list to Instacart adding whatever other odds and ends I may need (dog food, paper towels, eggs etc).
And now the tools.
The first tool is A Healthy Passion, of course. I like to think of it as a meal plan suggester (is that a word – haha) rather than a complete meal planner because as I mentioned, not realistic. I put in my allergies/preferences and macronutrient needs and then it gives me ideas for recipes that fit into my life with the click of a button. And with 7 lunch and 7 dinner suggestions, I can weed through and figure out what looks perfect and what I will skip. I always look at the ingredients and how much time each recipe takes before making it part of my plan. I also have a little notepad next to me where I can make notes of what can be prepped ahead to speed up my busy weeknights so I am not starting from zero “oh crap what’s for dinner” every night. I then take my meal I’ve chosen and decide how much of each I need to make. If I need leftovers for lunch or another meal I will plan to double the recipe. I’ll then add my meals into my second tool I can’t live without – My Fitness Pal. Once the meals are in there I fill in the blanks with my snacks and breakfasts to hit my macro goals using my macro meal planner as my guide. This helps me personally to have a daily plan so I know exactly what I’m eating. If you don’t track skip this step.
And then I prep.
Now as I mentioned, we’re not talking full on all day Sunday meal prep but rather take that little list I made and prep those ingredients. You can learn more about what I typically will prep here but long story short, I will choose a few elements to help me speed things up and spend 30 min to an hour on this task. Again, mostly to make me feel like a totally organized rockstar so I start my week out ahead!
Once the week rolls around I feel totally calm and have one less thing to think about. I organize my lunch for the next day as I am prepping dinner each night, simply! It’s a total stress reliever to have one thing off my plate and knowing that I am staying on track with the healthy lifestyle I love.
To get started with this new way of meal planning you can sign up for your free meal planning account here.