…or how meal planning helps you stay on track with your health goals.
If you’re anything like me, your schedule is jam-packed. Days fly by and you often wonder how you’ll get everything on your ‘To Do’ list done. Sound familiar?
Being busy on a regular basis (errr, daily!) can make it tough to maintain your focus on healthy eating, let alone add in new, healthy habits… or indeed, to add anything extra at all to your overflowing schedule. This is where having a plan, IE regular meal planning, that fits in to your schedule is your saviour and BFF. Meal planning is the most effective way to support your health goals. Sure, it may seem like extra work, and using time you don’t have. But I am going to help you learn the art of meal planning so it’s quick and simple, while still being flexible to adapt to the curve balls life throws at us. After all, with structure there is flexibility.
Meal planning helps keep your head clear about what to expect for the week and what ingredients you need to have on hand. (One trip to the shop!) Without a plan, it’s too easy to revert to fast food (take away) or unhealthy pre-packaged convenience foods and thwart your healthy eating goals. Making meal planning part of your week (or month) gives more control over food choices and helps avoid those we are inclined to make when we are STARVING! (Hello chips and muffins.)
Your challenge is to be mindful about food choices and use meal planning to give you confidence and the ingredients to make healthy food choices for family meals. Over the next month I will be discussing strategies to help make this easy and share some recipes too. Be sure to follow along on my social media pages for more recipes.
STEP ONE: Be prepared
- What are you going to keep your plan on? I use chalkboard stickers on the side of the pantry so everyone knows what to expect for dinner. (See the picture). I got mine from eBay for only a few dollars each. Other things you could use are a whiteboard, paper calendar or diary, or notebook. Pinterest and the internet are full of practical and/or pretty templates to inspire you.
- What’s on for you all this week? Have your calendar nearby so you can choose meals that are going to fit in with how much time you have to cook.
- What’s in the fridge and freezer? Take a quick look at what’s hiding in the freezer or fridge. What needs using up first?
STEP TWO: START WRITING
- Time to jump in and put some meals on the page. Meal planning isn’t just for dinners! You can also plan lunches and breakfasts too.
- Consider what activities or outings you have on for the day. How much time will you have to prepare a meal? Pick meals that fit in with this, plan leftovers, or something from the freezer for that day.
- Ask your family, what do they feel like this week? Four children means that’s four meals picked for the week! No time to make it this week? Then they give me another option. A sheet of paper on the freezer has a list of meals everyone likes. So I can always use that when meal planning and know there’s a high chance everyone will be happy. Also much quicker than flicking through cookbooks, the internet or Pinterest!
- Stuck in a rut? Then search Pinterest, Google or websites like taste.com.au to find inspiration. Some of my other favourites are skinnymixers.com.au, Quirky Cooking, and the Merrymaker Sisters. Use my healthy eating guide to make sure you are making healthy food choices.
- You don’t always need a recipe or detailed planning to make healthy, delicious food. It can be as simple as writing BBQ or chicken when meal planning and knowing that this means meat and vegetables or salad for dinner.
- Write your shopping list as you go. I use the app ‘Wunderlist’ for this, so I never forget my shopping list. Plus, I can share it with my husband and he can easily do the shopping on his way home from work. It’s cheaper if he goes and so much easier without kids in tow. try it, you’ll love it.
STEP THREE: GET COOKING
- You’ve made your shopping list, so now’s the time to get them! However you like to do this… order it online, send someone to the shops for you, or do it yourself.
- Things you can do to streamline the week’s meals are:
- encourage your kids to help shop, unpack and cook. Yes this makes it take longer initially. But they’ll learn invaluable life skills and there will come a time (sooner than you think!) when they can be responsible for cooking some meals each week. My 14 year old often cooks lunch for himself and my 12 year old cooks lunch for herself and her siblings many times a week. I’m almost superfluous!
- as you’re unpacking, chop vegetable sticks for lunches or snacks and keep in a container in the fridge.
- when making marinades, make double (or more) and freeze for another day.
- prepare a bunch of smoothie or slow cooker bags in one go to make breakfast, snacks and dinners easy. Smoothie bags are a perfect task for kids to make up.
MEAL IDEA – avocado boats
Fill avocado halves with a mixture of fresh delicious ingredients. Pictured here are tuna, quartered cherry tomatoes, onion and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Add whole egg mayonnaise to bind the mix together. Use tinned salmon for extra omega-3 fats. Other fillings could include waldorf salad, coleslaw or chopped chicken and mayonnaise.
Want to take this to work? No problem. Keep the avocado and filling in separate containers to make up when it’s lunch time. Squeezing fresh lemon juice over the cut half of the avocado reduces browning while in lunchbox.
What ideas do you have for your avocado boats?
NEED MORE HELP?
Full days and a jam-packed schedule seem to be the norm these days. But they don’t have to mean that you and your family need to exist off take away or packaged food. Meal planning supports your health goals and enables healthy eating even on your busiest days! No need to feel stressed by the kids asking, “what’s for dinner?” or try to cobble something together when you’re all hungry and its getting close to bedtime. Remember, structure gives flexibility. Stay tuned throughout the month as I share my simple strategies for planning healthy, simple meals without spending hours in the kitchen.