The Art of Meal Planning

Okay, so my past three consults in a row have had a common theme—the importance of meal planning.  If you are committed to eating well, you need to plan ahead.If you have flexible work hours or daytime commitments, you still need to plan ahead to get a healthy and tasty meal on the table, but you have more time throughout the day to do it.  If you spend the day out of your house, much of this planning has to occur on the weekend.Here are the goals:

  1. Make a weekly plan for meals, particularly for dinner.  If you aren’t into leftovers for lunch, you’ll probably want to plan for lunch as well.  You also need to keep a selection of foods for breakfast and snacks in mind.  If you aren't a "planner" and don't like to commit to a meal ahead of time, plan a selection of tasty and healthy foods available with a general idea of how to use them.
  2. Shop once a week.  You may choose to shop more often, for example, if you have a nice farmer’s market on the way home, but in efforts of saving time and money, shop once a week.

Here are the benefits:

  1. Save time.
  2. Save money.
  3. Eat balanced meals.
  4. Reduce stress.
  5. Add variety.
  6. Enjoy cooking.

Here’s the plan.Step 1: Pull together a few magazines, healthy cookbooks and interesting websites for ideas. Eating Well is a wonderful magazine subscription and online resource.  I also pull recipes from Runner’s World and Sunset magazine.  Some of my favorite cookbooks are: Alice Water’s The Art of Cooking, Veganomicon, Lean Bean Cuisine and Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook.  These are my favorites, what are your favorite recipe resources?Next, sit down with your cooking partners—spouse, children, roommates, etc and pick out recipes to prepare for the week.  Keep a list of tried-and-true favorites and a list of new ideas.  Use these lists to stimulate your creativity when planning what to eat.  By planning ahead you will be able to think through balance, satiety and variety.  When making your plan, divvy up the responsibilities so that everyone is involved meal preparation.If you are stuck on this step, that’s what I am here for.  Except in rare instances, I won't write a meal plan for you, but I will guide you in evaluating recipes and determining which meals are right for you; I will also help you balance your meals, inspire variety and encourage tasty new foods.Step 2: Make a grocery list and shop.Try to shop in just one store.  Choose foods from the perimeter of the store and stick to your list!Step 3:  Prep foods ahead of time.Chop, assemble and prep what you can ahead of time.  Write reminders on your plan, such as, “set out the chicken to defrost” or “get spices together”.  It makes a world of difference for me if I can set out the spices that I need for dinner before I leave for work in the morning.  Just that one step is taken care of when I’m trying to cook with the kiddos.Step 4:  Cook and enjoy!It’s amazing what a relief it is to know that you have food in the house and a plan in place.  No more agonizing over what to fix and setting for something less than ideal.  At the end of the day cooking can be a pleasure and a part of decompressing when you know that you have everything you need to make a tasty and healthy meal.Material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for personalized nutrition or health advice or healthcare. Never disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read or accessed through this website.