Meal Planning was always somewhat of a mystery to me. I couldn't figure out the right way to plan what I wanted to eat. I mean, how could I know what I would want to be eating by next Tuesday!? In my mind, the people who could Meal Plan were on another level of discipline and planning. I never thought I could pull it together and be organized enough to fit some type of meal planning into my life. And then it dawned on me...
I don't have to eat what's planned for that particular day. Meaning, I could swap meals I had planned and prepared throughout the week based on how I was feeling at each particular meal. For example, if lunchtime hit and I really wanted what I prepared to eat for dinner at lunchtime, I had the freedom to move things around and make that happen.
I know, I know. Major "duh" moment, but it was kind of revolutionary for me as it unlocked a system that allowed me to be planned and organized for the most part, but not give up on my spontaneous nature either.
By the way, when I say Meal Planning I'm talking about planning out the food you're going to eat in a week's time (or however long you go in between grocery store runs).
Also, I thought Meal Planning was only for moms with like 4 kids. That's totally not true! Another "duh, JJ!" moment for sure.
My weekly rhythms were definitely lacking organization. I knew that if I thought through recipes I want to eat + what our week looks like event wise, then I could bring a sense of calm and less "frazzled-ness" to our house. Once I committed to Meal Planning and figured out some tips and tricks, the mystery of meal planning (and meal prepping!) was FINALLY unlocked. I'm going to share the secrets with you!
Secret #1 Figure out your objectives
I didn't want to Meal Plan just to Meal Plan. I wanted to be more in control of the food we ate, maximize our quality time together, and be wise with how we spent our money. Because I wasn't organized in my shopping lists, we'd constantly be running back to the grocery store multiple times a week -- that costs time and money. So my objectives were to:
- Shop smarter by using coupons and taking advantage of weekly deals, etc.
- Eat out less / Eat healthier
- Feel more in control of food
Knowing why I wanted to start meal planning in the first place helped me stick with it when I would have rather done other things. I don't do things just to do them. If I am going to add something to my routine, it better be worth it. Head ups... it's worth it!
Secret #2 Find the right time and day to make your Meal Plan, grocery shop, and meal prep
Take a general look at your week and see where you've got natural, somewhat consistent time gaps. This allows you to fit Meal Planning and prep into your already established weekly rhythm. After a few weeks of trial and error, I found that our best time to go to the grocery store and meal prep was Sunday afternoon/evenings. It sets us up for a great week!
Secret #3 Treat lunches like normal meals
Another revolutionary thing for me was creating a system where lunches weren't dependant on leftovers. Why had I not thought of this? No idea, but I thought it was brilliant! For so long I considered lunches to be just salads, sandwiches, and leftovers. Not their own meals prep! I'm sure you realized this a long time ago, but it's a more recent thing for this gal and I'm telling you: it's my best Meal Planning secret on this list.
What I do is plan 2 lunch meals. I alternate them every other day. Yes, there are 4 days in a work week, but it works well for us because we usually eat out for lunch once a week. Either with our whole staff or one-on-one lunches with people in our church.
Secret #4 Determine when you want to cook and when you don't want to cook
I love cooking. I really do. That doesn't mean that I want to cook every night, though. The way my meal planning works out is that I cook maybe 4 times a week in total. During the week is when I try new recipes and get really creative. On the weekends, I like to chill out so I always have something quick and easy on hand (for us, that's bacon and eggs!).
Secret #5 Determine if you are digital or analog
If you prefer writing things down via pen on paper, great! Do that! If you can't keep up with the paper that you wrote your recipe list down on, and you lost the pen too, then stick to digital. I'm digital, baby! I have a Spreadsheet in my Google Drive where I plug in recipes I want to make for the upcoming week. I've found that doing this helps me in the future because as I continue to build my Meal Plans out, the previous meals in the spreadsheet serve as inspiration when I'm not feeling anything new. Plus, when you're short on time you can copy and paste an old Meal Plan that you liked from weeks ago. That in itself has been a lifesaver for me!
Whether you're digital or analog, keep up with the meal plans you make in a notebook or your Google Drive. They'll help you in the weeks where you're stumped or short on time.
Those are my secrets! You can plug them into your life whether you eat Keto like me or the Standard American Diet. These secrets work for everyone, especially if you're not the most organized person -- like me!