Meal Planning Made Easy
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Have you ever done a google search for something along the lines of “meal planning” or “best meal planner”? If so, you know just how much information there is out there! If you’re confused by which meal planning advice to follow, keep reading!
DITCH THE OVERWHELM
After working with hundreds of people in my fitness business, I find that they fall into one of three categories when it comes to meal planning:
- Heck yes, I do it religiously!
- Tried it, hated it!
- Huh? What’s that?
The problem with many of the meal planning tools that tried is that they’re way too complicated! Maybe you’ve had the same problem? Usually, it goes something like this:
“Wait.. to be ‘healthy’ I have to make this fancy meal using ingredients I’ve never even heard of before? Where do you even find fennel? And what the heck is quinoa [KEEN-wa]?”
Ironically, I was watching an episode of “Chopped” last night and one of the mystery ingredients was pickled daikon. I’ve heard the name before, but I was like, “What the heck IS it?” Apparently, that pile of red veggie shreds was basically a carrot-shaped white radish, shredded and pickled with spices. I’m including a picture here in case you’re curious what it looks like in raw form. You can read more about the daikon on the Eat-Japan website if you’re interested in learning how to use and prepare it.
NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY
It’s not necessary to be a gourmet chef spending hours in the kitchen planning in order to eat healthy meals! Because “ain’t nobody got time for that!”
Personally, I find that if something takes up too much of my time, money, or energy than it previously did.. I’m simply not going to do it! And as someone who has an already full schedule, I bet you’re the same way! We’re all busy, and the point of this is to make meal planning and prepping easier on you, not harder.
So first off, here’s my #1 rule: The KISS Principle. KISS is an acronym that stands for “Keep it Simple, Stupid!” The basic concept is to keep designs as simple as possible in order to ensure they work the best. Doing this simplifies things versus using overly complicated or intricate parts within a system.
A couple of variations include: “Keep it Simple, Silly”, “Keep it Simple, Stupid”, and “Keep it Small and Simple”. For our purposes here, I’m going to use “Keep it Simple Stupid!” and there’s a good reason for that. I’ll share the short background story on where the term it originated. And for all the grammar nerds, this will be a little punctuation lesson too.
Clarence Leonard “Kelly” Johnson, an aeronautical and systems engineer, defined the KISS principle in a slightly different way. For many years, the KISS principle was written as “Keep it simple, stupid”, but Johnson wrote it as “Keep it simple stupid” (without a comma):
“The principle is best exemplified by the story of Johnson handing a team of design engineers a handful of tools, with the challenge that the jet aircraft they were designing must be repairable by an average mechanic in the field under combat conditions with only these tools. Hence, the “stupid” refers to the relationship between the way things break and the sophistication available to repair them.” – Wikipedia
I absolutely love this because I’m a mechanical engineer by training and we take it upon ourselves to streamline designs. The end goal of a design should be simplicity. It’s not necessary to use 15 complicated moving parts (just because you can) when 5 simple parts will get the job done. This takes away a greater chance for failure while making things easier on the end user; making it a win-win situation.
REMOVE THE OBSTACLES
My goal with this blog post is to try and take away the complications and frustrations that can occur when something isn’t working and give a simple, easy to follow solution. And we can absolutely apply this to meal planning!
For me, I know that NOT having a plan affected both my wallet and my health! This is why I decided to write this post about meal planning and preparation – to help you avoid some of the initial mistakes I made.
REMOVE THE STRESS
Planning out your meals is all about being flexible and finding what works for you and within your busy schedule. This might include preparing for smaller portions, planning out how and when to eat leftover meals (if that’s your thing) and using leftover ingredients. But this is not a one-size-fits-all plan. I’ll be sharing tips that you can try out, put into place, implement, tweak, etc. until you find YOUR right fit.
These tips have helped me reduce stress when it comes to planning for my husband and I, and for the most part, has eliminated having the dreaded conversation every day of “What do you want for dinner?” “I dunno, what do YOU want?” UGH!
Don’t get me wrong, we still have days where neither of us wants to cook and we order take-out or delivery. I mean, we’re only human, right? But when we plan ahead we’re more likely to eat healthier, save money, have more energy, and are less stressed because we’re so much more organized. It takes the guesswork out!
MEAL PLANNING MADE EASY
To start with, here are some quick and easy steps to take:
- Pick a day/time each week when you will create your meal plan (20-30 mins max), and block out the time in your schedule so you’re making the commitment.
- Brainstorm a master list of your go-to mail meal ideas that you’re familiar with and are simple to make. Each week decide how many meals you’ll need to make (allowing for flexibility) and add that number (say 3 or 4) to your weekly list. Then try to add 1 brand new, uncomplicated recipe to keep things fresh. Anything with 5 ingredients or less is a winner in my book!
- Then brainstorm a master list of easy side dishes that you can mix and match with your mains. My favorite side dishes include spinach salads, fruit salad, brown rice, quinoa, bread, steamed or roasted veggies. But I also keep canned or frozen beans and veggies stocked so I always have SOMETHING on hand.
- Look for recipes that have short prep & cook times for nights when you don’t have a lot of time.
- Pay attention to how many servings your recipes make. If you need to, cut them in half (or even fourths) unless you want a lot of leftovers. To easily scale your recipes, here are two great tools you can use:
- The Kitchen Calculator can be used to convert a single measurement from just about any unit to another.
- The Recipe Converter can help you scale an entire recipe at once. Add your ingredient list in and if you want to scale the recipe up or down, you add a multiplier. Or you can scale it by portion or serving size. Put the original serving sizes in, type in how many servings you want to make and it’ll convert your ingredients!
- After you have your meals written out, then you can create your shopping list. Be sure to check your pantry, fridge, and freezer for any staple items you already have on hand. Then write down what you’ll need to pick up for the recipes you’re having.
I like to meal plan this way because while I’m committing to certain meals each week, I’m also giving myself flexibility by not assigning a specific meal to a certain day of the week. Plans change, you get caught up in projects deadlines, or meetings run late. I like to feel like I have some breathing room when it comes to meals. Plus if I don’t feel like cooking, I’ll save it for later in the week when I have more energy.
FOR MORE HEALTHY TIPS
In my FREE 7-Day Kickstart to a New You email series, I’m gifting a printable meal planning template. You can download the meal planner to your own device and print a new one each week. When you save the completed templates you can use them again and again to some major time! To grab a copy for yourself, click below to sign up for the free email course. You’ll also receive 7 Healthy Strategies and action tips you can put to use right away!
Now go ahead and make your first easy meal plan! If you found this info helpful, tell me your favorite tip in the comments below and share it with someone who might be interested in learning a few tips on meal planning!