As many of you know, I’m not a huge fan of cooking. And don’t get me started on meal planning and prepping. I lived that life the first year I was in contest prep for my bikini competition.
Every Sunday the hubs and I would spend 2-3 hours in the kitchen chopping, cooking, and packing food away for the week. It was monotonous and time consuming. There were plenty of other things I would rather do at that moment, but I would end up repeating this awful “prep day” routine for months to come.
Until I found a better way, one that doesn’t take up all my time and allows me the freedom to do the things I would much rather be doing like sipping a Zima poolside with my family.
Now I’m not here to knock meal planning or prepping altogether. I think the theory behind it is solid but I don’t think we need to spend hours upon hours each week getting it done in order to be successful with our fat loss goals.
You already know that the reason behind not achieving your health and fitness goals is that your nutrition habits are not serving those goals but you also find it hard to take the first step towards changing those habits.
Learning from the consultations I have with my online coaching clients I am confident that most people don’t realize what that first step is. It’s not starting to eat more vegetables, consuming less calories or cutting back on processed food. Yes, those are important principles to incorporate into your diet, but the first step to improve your eating habits is to dedicate some time to create a meal plan that works for you.
Remember there are no one size fits all plans.
Here are 4 simple steps to create and execute your meal plan:
1. Make a list of 14-28 of your favorite dishes.
Instead of trying to follow the principles others want you to do, start from the other end. Take the time to create an extensive list of meals you really like. Don’t worry about whether or not it’s healthy. Just brain dump a list of your favorites. You can even group them depending on when you prefer to eat them: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack. It’s ok to have the same meal in more than one category.
Bonus…you only need to do this once and update it every now and then if you find something new you like.
2. Create your meal calendar.
Once you have your list, decide on a day/time when you do your weekly meal planning/shopping. If you work office hours, you may want to do this on the weekend. If you do shifts, pick any day, just make sure you can do it on the same day every week for consistency.
Use a weekly calendar, either printed or digital to plan the meals. If you eat 3 main meals a day plus some snacks, you can just write them out by their name, if you are eating 4-6x, you can call them meal 1, meal 2 and so on. (Check out our Weekly Meal Planning Sheet)
Pick the meals for the week and add them to the calendar where you’d like to have them. If you are the type who is not bothered by eating the same meal more than once (this is definitely me), you can cook in batches, or use leftovers from dinners for lunch the day after.
3. Build your grocery list for the week based on those meals.
Check your fridge, cupboards, pantry, nooks and crannies for ingredients to see if there’s anything you don’t need to buy. Then decide on how many portions of each meal you would like to cook and determine how much you will need to purchase.
Write out your grocery list with only the items you need for your weekly meals plus anything else you may need (e.g. pantry staples, snacks, etc).
4. Go shopping.
With list in hand and not on an empty stomach, make the decision that you are not going to buy anything else other than what’s on your list. Try it, if your body is satisfied (i.e. not hungry), you will not be tempted that easily by the flashy offers and your regular weak spots.
When you arrive home, organize those ingredients in order of cooking. If there is any preparation you can do in advance for the week to save you time during the week, do so (e.g. chopping vegetables, portioning meat, etc).
Now if all of this meal planning seems overwhelming and the very thought of doing it causes anxiety, you definitely want to check out these useful tools I have listed below. I have personally used both in the past and I loved the convenience of having things done for me.
DONE FOR YOU MEAL PLANS
If you feel you haven’t got the patience to do all the planning for yourself, leave it to the professionals. emeals.com will build your meal plan for you based on what style you prefer (quick & healthy, clean eating, paleo, etc.) and you can try it FREE for 14 days.
ONLINE MEAL PLANNER
You can use plantoeat.com to help you create your plan, it collects your favorite recipes and stores them in a list which then you can use to schedule your meals for the week ahead in an online calendar and it will automatically generate your shopping list.
Some of you may not need to plan everything to the T to create sustainable eating habits, but you still need to understand how to build your meals so they bring you closer to your goals. Give this a go for a few weeks and see how it changes your life.
I am a wife, mom, grandma & former professional “diet and exercise hopper" who understands the challenges of being 40lb overweight after having children & the damage repeated sense of failure can cause to your confidence and self-esteem.