By Samantha Pollack
There is only one rule when writing meal plans:
They must work FOR YOU, not the other way around. Do you eat lunch at 4:00 and skip dinner? Great. Have no interest in making or eating breakfast, ever? Then don’t put breakfast in your plan.
Don’t try to squeeze your life into some idealized version of a meal plan. That’s like wearing shoes that are too small. ALL the time.
Some expert tips on writing an awesome meal plan:
1) Start with the most challenging time of your day. The time when you’re most likely to reach for the cookies/chips/entire loaf of bread.
What would help you navigate that time with ease? If it’s an afternoon snack-attack, you might need a more satisfying lunch. If it’s a late-night dinner of dried cranberries and leftover broccoli, you probably need some more enticing options at the ready.
2) Keep it simple. You don’t need more than four different recipes. If you like to experiment and try new things, include ONE dish that pushes your comfort zone. Keep the rest familiar and easy.
3) Only include food you actually enjoy eating. Seriously, how many times have you purchased a whole mess of healthy vegetables, only to watch them slowly turn to slime in your fridge? If you don’t like something, DON’T EAT IT!
Step-by-Step Meal Planning:
1) Pick 3-4 main dishes for the week. Some might be in your head, like taco night, while others might take some recipe-scrounging.
*Pay attention to portions when you look at recipes. Most recipes are designed to serve at least four – this is great if you want to freeze leftovers, but often it’s too much for just one or two.
2) Put some thought into your other food – breakfast, snacks, sweet treats. List a few options for the upcoming week.
3) Plan your prep. This is the most neglected planning step. Look through the food you’ve chosen, and pick out some things you can prep ahead of time. Make a big batch of rice. Wash and chop produce. Make hummus and salad dressings.
*These steps enable you to get home at 7:30 and be eating by 7:50. (A real, tasty, healthy dinner.) They allow you to put together well-rounded work lunches in less than ten minutes.
2) Go shopping, armed with your list. It’s much faster this way.
3) Prep whatever you can ahead of time.
You should start this at the end of the week, giving yourself ample time for grocery shopping and prep. (If your “weekends” are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, start meal planning on Monday.)
Break up the steps – recipe hunting and selecting your meals can take up to an hour. So can shopping. You don’t have to do it all at once.
Remember, there is no one way to create a meal plan. Here’s how I put mine to work:
I choose 3-4 dinners/main meals and post the list on my fridge:
Stuffed Acorn Squash. Turkey Burgers. Coconut Thai Curry. Quick Veggie Bowl.
Two of these dishes take 30 minutes or longer. The other two take less than 15 minutes.
On nights when I have more time to cook, I pick one of the lengthier dishes (whichever one I feel like eating). On later evenings, I use the list to remind me of some quick, healthy options – so I don’t graze on dried cranberries and leftover broccoli. Try writing your own meal plan, and tell me about your adventures in the comments section. I love adventures.
If you missed Meal Planning Part I, you’ll find it here.