Put Meal Planning on the Menu – How to Get Started
Planning and cooking your meals for an entire week seems like a daunting task, but not an insurmountable one. Meal planning can be done, as long as you organize a bit and work on your follow through.
There comes a time in every adult’s life when they have to crack their joints and start thinking about meal planning. For some, there is the incentive of parenthood on the horizon. For others, like me, there’s pushing past the 30-year-old mark and feeling so exhausted when I get home from work that I often slip up and just order some pizza. It shows on my thighs, I can tell you that!
But in the past months, I’ve realized that this shortcut isn’t doing me any favors. First of all, that pizza, as tasty as it is for a few minutes, will just turn me into an unmoving blob permanently glued to the sofa. It makes me feel heavy, lacking in energy and motivation to do anything else than binge TV shows.
But no more! I had been researching meal planning and I recently started to do it. And let me tell you, I do feel the difference. What about you? Are you sick and tired of ordering fatty take out and would like more of a healthy diet, cooked by yourself? Then here’s what you need to know before you join the meal planning club.
4 things to know before you start meal planning
1. You will need some math
But not very complicated math. Every week, or every two weeks, just find a quiet moment where you can relax and think about what you will be eating the next week. You can do the math in a digital spreadsheet or you know, the old-timey way, with pen and paper.
First, figure out how many meals you want to cover in one go. If you’re just starting out, I suggest you take it slowly, like me. Just plan for a week of dinners to have at home when you’re tired. Of course, you should always keep in mind what kind of plans you have for the following week. If you usually have a night of going out with friends – like a thank God it’s Friday type of deal, then take that out of the equation. You will be left with four dinners to plan.
The next step is planning for breakfast and/or lunches, too. But do that whenever you feel confident about your first step.
2. Choose the type of meals
If you’re on a diet, then you should take that into consideration, since some diets focus on having different types of meals on different nights.
Also, if you know you will be running errands after work and will get home later, it’s best to go for a slow-cooked meal, so invest in a slow-cooker. The appliance is amazing for meal planning since you can load it up in a short time and it will cook reliably while you’re not there. Once again, the key is knowing what your social commitments will be for the following week so that you can include them in your meal plan for the whole week (or fortnight).
Another great idea is creating a sort of template of meals you like and giving them a certain evening during the week. For instance, I do love some chicken thighs and I decided to make them the official Wednesday food, along with potatoes. That is how I know I have to buy the meat and potatoes, but then I season them differently and cook them a bit differently, to avoid a routine!
3. Always have a Plan B
In case of emergencies, know that you can rely on a simple favorite of yours. Like an omelet or frittata is for me. They’re easy to make dishes, cooked with the help of common ingredients like eggs and whatever else I find in the fridge. Or since I’ve started to make my own stock, I can whip up a simple soup in no time. By adding noodles and some of the leftover chicken from the roasted thighs!
4. Be aware of your limitations
Trying to figure out what you’re going to eat for a whole week sometimes seems to be as futile as fitting a square peg into a round hole. With outing ideas that come out of nowhere and hanging out requests from friends who only have a jar of olives in their fridge. But the heart of meal planning means that you write everything down, stick it to the fridge door with those nice magnets from your vacation, and stick to it as much as possible.
You shouldn’t have too much guilt if it doesn’t work out 100 percent. Part of the beauty of life is embracing the unexpected. Just shop for whatever’s on the list, cook as much as possible during the weekend, have a backup and enjoy life as much as possible, when the opportunity arises!