Author's Note: This is the 3rd blog post in meal prep series! Read more about our guest contributor Lindsay Young at the end.
Over the last two posts, we’ve talked about how supplying your body with clean, nourishing fuel will help you to show up as your best self, along with five foundational strategies to support your body with good nutrition. In this post, I want to give you a practical step-by-step guide for developing a meal planning process.
Meal planning guarantees you have accessible, healthy, delicious meals ready to roll the second you need them. Less rash decision making because you’re short on time and fewer trips through the drive-thru! You’ll save money on eating out and from wasting money on groceries that you don’t actually use.
Here’s my process to use as a starting point for developing your own:
Take an honest look at your calendar and see what the upcoming week looks like. Do you have late meetings? Social events planned? Early mornings workouts scheduled? Identify meals that need to be grab-n-go or nights when you need leftovers to reheat immediately after you get home.
Pick out recipes and plan what you’re going to eat for each meal. You can do this for the entire week or in 3-day chunks. Take inventory of what’s already in your fridge, freezer, and pantry that you need to use up and write out a grocery list for the remaining items you need. I usually plan to cook for three nights and have three nights of leftovers, leaving one night for eating out. If I have more dinners out planned I can slot those dinner leftovers to reheat for lunch.
Grocery shop and/or place grocery orders online. Save time by doing one big grocery shop for the week as opposed to swinging by the store every night on your way home from work. Grocery delivery can be a game changer for your busy life! Favorite resources of mine are Butcher Box, Vital Choice, Thrive Market, Farm Fresh to You, Imperfect Produce, Instacart, and Amazon.
Once you’ve shopped, put food away in its place and make sure it’s easy to access and well organized. Pre-wash and pre-chop produce to save time later on in the week. Chunk your time smartly to reduce overall time in the kitchen. If you chop a bunch of veggies ahead of time you’ll have an easy, healthy snack to grab when you’re short on time. Place your healthy choices front and center so they’re the first thing you see when you open your fridge or pantry.
Take advantage of the time you have in the kitchen and batch cook meals. Bake two chickens instead of one, roast two pans of veggies in the oven at the same time to save time on another night, heat a pot of soup on the stove while another dinner is in the oven.
Set up an assembly line and make all of your breakfast or lunches for the week. You can put all of your smoothie ingredients in baggies and keep them in the freezer or put all of your salad fixings in mason jars.
One of my favorites is to cook a spaghetti squash and divide it into four glass Pyrex containers and then top with grass-fed beef cooked with spinach and marinara sauce. Then I have four lunches pre-made for the week that I can grab on my way out the door. I also make my almond milk yogurt parfaits assembly-line style so breakfast is taken care of. This saves so much time!
Make notes about what you can do better next time. If your lettuce always goes bad because you don’t have time to wash it (my personal struggle), try buying pre-washed lettuce next time to make it easier to get those leafy greens in. Save your meal plans & grocery lists to re-use the next month. Keep track of what went well and what you need to troubleshoot.
Meal planning may feel foreign and time-consuming at the beginning, but like any skill that’s worthwhile to learn, it gets easier with time. This investment of your time and energy will pay off big time! If you need help getting started, download my 2018 Summer Meal Plan: 7 days of breakfast, lunch & dinner recipes plus snacks, dessert, and even a healthy cocktail. I’ve included a shopping list too that you can print and take with you to the store.
Lindsay Young is a Certified Transformational Nutrition Coach and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who specializes in helping passionate women develop a lifestyle & nutrition plan that works with their busy life. Grab her free download, Build a Brilliant Smoothie, for the insiders scoop on how to make a smoothie that is both slimming and satisfying, plus 16 recipes! Visit Lindsay on Instagram for daily tips on how to make healthy living simple and joyful.