The meal planning hack you're missing out on

There’s this thing I do (well, I usually try to sometimes do) that guarantees I stress less, save time, eat healthier, and spend less money. Nope! I haven’t yet figured out to be in two places at once. And no, as hard as I’ve tried, I haven’t managed to sprout a third arm.

Ready for it?!

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Technically, it’s MEAL PLANNING! However in my life it looks a lot like post-it note with a list of four to six meals I think I can manage to prepare that week. When I’m in a groove it doesn’t take much time. 

Yet few are doing this. The consensus among my clients and friends is universal: meal planning is the #1 task they’re stuck on, wanting to do more, and generally curious about.

Should we back up? Meal planning seems obvious. At the most basic, it’s figuring out what you’re going to eat and when. But in real life making dinner actually appear on the table involves a few more steps:

  • Finding recipes
  • Writing a grocery list
  • Food shopping (with your list!)

I think most of us are doing some of this to some extent, but often what I find we lack is structure, intentionality, and consistency. When you have a plan you end up buying what you need, knowing what you’re cooking and when. In other words, you end up wasting less time, stressing less, and ultimately spending less money (says the girl who neglected to plan this week and ended up going out for a $100-dollar dinner with her husband when she just couldn’t get it together on a Wednesday night because she didn’t meal plan - see, I said I sometimes get it together).

I’ll be talking more on this, but for now, I wanted to share this tool/technique that I use with clients when they are stuck with what to make or are unsure how to think about creating a meal. I love it for families who struggle with picky eaters or diverse tastes, but it’s a gem for all.

For each category, create a list of foods that work for you and your family. They don’t have to be homemade, just accessible and acceptable to you. Get specific: adding chicken nuggets, rotisserie chicken, chicken wings to the protein list will get you further than just writing chicken.

I’m also a big fan of including the “combo dishes we like” column because, let’s face it, dinner doesn’t always fit into the protein-veggie-starch model. Here I include things like: spaghetti and meatballs, tacos, giant salad, chili, quesadilla, pizza.

Once you have your basics, mix and match, creating full meals and eventually adding to a weekly calendar.

Keep both the list and the calendar. When you find something that works you want to keep it! There’s no need to reinvent the wheel week after week.

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