Here I go again, talking about meal plans. But honestly, meal plans are one of the things that seriously changed my health game. It’s one of the reasons I started eating more nutritious food and thereby feeding my family more nutritious meals. And let me tell you, having a meal plan is less about weighing your food and perfect portion sizes and more about always having something nutritious to reach for as well as having a plan during crazy times.
Recently, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, The Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit Experience, where the host was interviewing Jasmine “Jazzy Things” Schmalhaus. I had never heard of her before but as she shared her journey, growth, experience with meal plans, and eventually a super business success I realized how much I related to her and how much of what she was saying I already do!
One of the reasons so many people don’t bother to create a meal plan or prep their food is because it just seems like too much of a bother, too much time spent in the kitchen, or they would rather just leave it all to chance. The problem with living your meals to chance is that you are more likely to eat nutritionally poor meals, than if you had a meal plan. But the truth is, having a meal plan gives you more than just nutritious food to eat, it helps with the following:
1. Decision Fatigue:
If you’re a mom like me, you can get tired of always deciding what’s for dinner, lunch, breakfast, snack, what clothes to wear, LOL. If you are a working parent? You are making decisions all day at work, the last thing you want to do is come home and make more decisions…am I right? How many times have you had that conversation?
“What do you want for dinner?”
“I don’t know, what are you thinking?”
“I don’t really care, what are you feeling?”
“I don’t really care either”
“Let’s just get take-out, it will be easier”
Ahhhh! I hate these conversations! But I am also sometimes tired of just deciding. Making the decision at the beginning of each week, or the end of the last week for the week coming up, you don’t have to decide every day what to do. It’s already been decided, and you just follow the meal plan.
2. Saves the Bank:
It doesn’t matter where you get “take out” – eating at home WILL ALWAYS BE less expensive than eating out. And when you have a meal plan you are more likely to eat at home. Do you have a resolution this year to save some money for a vacation? Have you ever looked at how much you spend in a year eating out? It can really add up! I know, because we look at it annually! And we have been guilty of the take-out budget, we aren’t immune. But if you’re like us, you’d rather spend that money on something more fun 😉. Plus, if you have a plan, you only buy what you need at the grocery store, nothing more, no impulse buys.
3. Saves Time:
I’m telling you, and please HEAR ME, having a plan (this doesn’t even include prepping your food) but having a meal plan, JUST THE PLAN, can save you so much time! It saves time in the kitchen, saves time in the grocery store, saves energy because you won’t be staring at the open fridge wondering what to make, allows you more after school time with the kiddos, and hopefully less trips to the grocery store.
So, what’s this idea of having themes? Well having a theme helps make the decision even easier. If every day of the week has a theme, you just work within that theme. Listening to that podcast, I realized I have been doing this for years. I pick themes really based on the time I have that day. For example, my busiest day of the week is Wednesdays. I have clients, teach class, a bible study, and the kids both have dance class. So, Wednesdays are always a CROCK POT day. This day changes every year, and of course in the summer, but CROCK POT day is the best 😉. But let me list some meal plan themes for you so that you can get an idea.
You can use these themes or create your own. They can change every week or stay the same. But even if Tuesday is taco night ALL the time, there are a thousand different ways to do tacos: taco bowls, fish tacos, beef tacos, veggie tacos, taco chili, taco salad – how you interpret the theme is up to you! Or Build Your Own Night could be tacos, pizzas, salads, rice bowls, burritos, the list goes on. Now, if you really wanted to go beyond just having a theme for your meal plan, you can get more specific, or start prepping some of these foods in advance for the days ahead. You could even use some of these themes for breakfast and lunch.
Categorize Your Grocery List
When you have a theme and a meal plan you can tailor your grocery list. If you know your grocery store you can categorize/theme your list. Example:
Write down what you will need, according to your meal plan, underneath each category. I find having it categorized like this allows you to focus on one area of the grocery store at a time and you are less likely to forget something you need. You are also less likely to buy something you don’t need. I never go down an aisle unless it’s called for. Perusing aisles is a sure-fire way to come home with things you don’t need. I speak from experience. If it isn’t part of the meal plan you don’t need it!
And can I make a side note? Your Meal Plan doesn’t need a different theme every day. Maybe Tuesdays and Fridays are both Crock Pot days. Or maybe you have two Leftover days. It really doesn’t matter. What matters most is that your meal plan fits you and your lifestyle while simultaneously helping you reach your goals. And again, if this is new to you, focus on the planning first, then the prepping, then the food itself. Taking things slow is how we can achieve long term success.
For more on this subject check out my blog on meal prep for real people. As always, if you need a coach to help you decide on a meal plan, or help you work through other areas, please reach out. But first, I’d like to know what one of your themes might be. Will you share in the comments what theme you might create or consider as you make your own meal plan?