How To Meal Plan - Part 1 of 2
“Ok, we’re making a change… I, or WE, are going to eat better. We are going to prep some of our food, we’ll eat out a 1-2x/week, and we’re going to stick with it this time.”
That sentence above has been made many times, by myself included, and then the actions have lasted a few days or weeks and fallen off. So, how do we start to meal plan and make it stick? How can we take those wishes and goals and make them actually happen?
If you’ve been reading our info, you know how important it is to build habits How to build habits (1/2), so we’re going to work backwards from our goal to make this happen via small incremental changes made over time to become daily, weekly and monthly habits.
We recommend that you check out some of our other articles too. Specifically, 7 Best Ways to Prepare Food, Meal Prep Thoughts & Learning, then Meal Planning vs Meal Prepping (LINK) and when you’re done with this article, go check out HOW TO: Meal Plan (Part 2 of 2) (LINK).
Here are the steps we need to take before we can make this a true habit:
Step 1 – Be Realistic
If you don’t plan at all, this is a great time to take a step back and think about what kind of meals and food prep would work best for YOU and your family. If you don’t take the time to sit down and think about how to work around short timelines, traveling, training, practices, etc. it will be very difficult to make solid progress in planning to accommodate those situations. What we’ll often have people start with is just prepping one meal on the weekend and eating that for one to two meals per day over the next three days. This one simple action of making a crockpot, 1 skillet or breakfast meal prep recipe is a great place to start and a simple enough step where almost all of our clients are successful in accomplishing it. This can serve as a jumping off point and be a great first habit to lead to large changes.
The point though, is don’t expect to change EVERY part of your current meal planning. If you are a person or family who habitually eats out, but wants to start prepping more of your food, no worries! Set the small goal of eating better when eating out, follow our basic principles of a great meal while eating at different locations, you can see some examples of better options while dining out here or read our blog post about habits to implement while eating out 5 Tips to Eat Better Away From Home.
Step 2 – Follow the rule that anything in the house long enough will be eaten.
If there are foods in your house that you do not think will help you reach your goal and have decided that you should not eat, get rid of them. There are always food drives, charitable organizations and other places to donate non-perishable food items. Most junk food people try to avoid while eating better are non-perishable. This would be a great way for you to help the less fortunate while also helping yourself.
Note that we are saying if you DON’T PLAN to eat it. We as a staff agree that there are few “good” or “bad” foods out there and you can if properly moderate, most food can be used. We want you to be happy with and have a healthy relationship with your food choices. Occasionally a special treat, food, snack, etc. are worth it and should be celebrated. We don’t want you to be tempted to eat foods that don’t help your goal simply because they are in your house. Make sure you check out our article on mindfulness Mindful Acceptance and Fulness and Triggers – Recognizing & Naming.
Step 3 – Take inventory and make a plan to use what you already have and didn’t purge!
There are some great websites out there that will allow you to actually plug in what ingredients you currently have and it will help you make meals based on those. This will help with your budgeting and can easily be worked into your meal plan.
Do you have a box of quinoa you’ve had in the pantry for a few months? Let’s do some Chicken Quinoa Chili (recipe pic below) The other things in the recipe can easily be purchased at the store and this is a great crockpot recipe you can meal prep on Sunday and have all week.
Doing a good inventory before you do your first round of meal planning can really shed some light on what foods you have purchased before and weren’t eaten.
Instead of making this mistake again, let’s solve it by picking other foods and options that are more likely to be used! I hate wasting money and my second least favorite thing is wasting food. Let’s avoid both by knowing exactly where we are starting from and then make our plans from there.
Step 4: Plan on using multiple types of food prep during the week.
Which day is your busiest?
For our family, our daughter has gymnastics on Monday nights. So, I get off work, go pick her up, feed her a quick snack, then we’re off for class. We get back and my wife has only been home a few minutes, just long enough to let out the dogs and drop off her stuff.
We know that day will always be tough. So, Sunday we make our dinner for both that night and Monday night too, so all we have to do is pull it out of the fridge and warm it up. Then it’s bath and family time until the kiddo passes out.
We have that planned though and always have a meal ready to be warmed up. By the time Wednesday night rolls around, the food we prepped is starting to life cycle out because we cook a lot of fish on Sunday night and it usually does not keep as long.
So, we’ll often cook food for Wednesday to Friday night, usually utilizing the smoker or grill because that’s my favorite. We also always plan ahead to have a 1 Skillet Meal (we usually do the Tex-Mex shrimp or Turkey and peppers) ready to be made on short notice. This is just in case we run out of food or have unexpected company and need bigger servings.
That being said, know what you’ll do when your plan doesn’t work out. Figure out local eateries you enjoy and will still help you reach your goals, have a 1 skillet meal ready to go, or have some meals you prep for the freezer that can easily be thawed and eaten.
Step 5: Write it down… THEN TAKE A PICTURE!
This seems silly, of course you’ll write it down and make a list… right?
Surprisingly, this is often where most people struggle and make mistakes, costing them time and money. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me they did all their meal planning… then forgot their list or didn’t write one down! Going from memory usually leads to things going bad, quickly.
Not writing it down will lead to silly mistakes, more trips back to the grocery store to get the RIGHT things and more stress than necessary. Let’s avoid that and take less time by writing it all out at one time. We recommend to our clients to take a picture of their grocery list AND each recipe ingredients list before they go to the store.
This has saved tons of men lots of time… yes we are absolutely more likely to forget the list, no arguments necessary. This has been a game changer for a lot of people.
Make sure you go on to read the second part of this article for more information!
Want some support, accountability and a guide for your journey? Our team will work with you on education of food choices, preparation, identifying best available options, and more skills. CLICK HERE to get started with our Powell Performance staff to make you the best version of yourself.