Have you ever gone on Instagram or Pinterest and looked up meal planning? There are like these super fit models on their strict diets who have planned the SAME meal out in 12 different Tupperware containers, sprawled out in front of them… and they’re like “it only takes a few hours on a Sunday!”
Hahah right! Well, I have a few problems with this… (and it’s probably because I’m lazy), but they haven’t considered the amount of time actually planning what they’re going to eat, going out and buying groceries, then prepping the food, then cooking it, then letting it cool, then packing it away in Tupperware containers. That’s more than a few hours… or at least it didn’t take me 3 hours… it took me like… 5 hours on a Sunday. I’m sorry but I have better, lazier things to do on a Sunday! I have a stressful job, I’m learning languages, I try to work out as many times as I can and I run my business, so when I have time to just brain dump, I take it… Sundays are my lazy brain dump days.
Now let’s say you had the motivation to actually do ALL this one Sunday or even maybe pulled this off for a few months… You’ve now got the same meal or same 3 meals for the next 12 days…………… yikes. I don’t necessarily call myself a foodie, but I love food and I think if you’re going to eat, it shouldn’t be a chore. Eating is enjoyable for us homo sapiens and therefore I don’t think making it a chore is a healthy thing to do.
So here is what I decided to do after a few attempts at regimenting my meals… relax and stop stressing. I still wanted to be healthy, I still wanted (at the time) to minimize my calories, but I also wanted to spend some nights going out for drinks, or having a cookie or not spending 12 dollars on a salad across the street from work. I wanted to save money, eat well, and lose weight… how hard could that be right? Don’t get overwhelmed by Instagram and Pinterest, it’s actually quite doable and as a result, you also waste a lot less food!
Here’s the plan:
Make your plan! This is the most important step… and it should only take about 30 min. This step also needs tweaking depending on your needs (size of your family, how big are the meals, etc.). But for a couple who works all day and has restaurants nearby at night, this is what we tend to do.
Step 1: Find one or two Pinterest/ Instagram/ youtube or cookbook recipes that you want to try. Remember an old dinner you love? — pick that too! Now pick something easy like grilled cheese or spaghetti or whatever floats your boat. Then maybe (if you want), leave a Friday or a Saturday for fast food/ eating out/ or whatever. Essentially you should have 4-5 meal options for a 7 day week. If you’re doing a big soup or a huge pot of chili… that could count easily as 2 dinners and 2 lunches for a couple. If you have 5 kids… different story, as I said, this will take some tweaking.
Step 2: Create a list of ingredients, I use the app Listonic to put together my grocery list. In my grocery list, I tend to include some fruits for snacking, instant oatmeal in the morning, or whatever else I like to just nibble on.
Check out my post on how to snack and lose weight!
Boom! Saturday’s meal planning is over!
Go to the grocery store and pick up your ingredients. If you’re ambitious (and not lazy like me) you can create some healthy snacks that afternoon, and or just stick to making your first Sunday meal that night. Once the meal is cooked, and devoured, put the leftovers in Tupperware containers, cut up a few pieces of fruit and nuts, or some other snacks you may have bought, and pack them away for lunch tomorrow. Lunches don’t need to be huge, just pack enough to eat so that you’re not starving at work. Again this will take a few weeks to figure out. Once I packed way too little and had to go out and grab a breakfast sandwich by 10am… I figured out the next week that I’d pack a few more snacks. If you’re interested in knowing how to snack healthy at work: check out this blog post!
Now you’re home from a long day at work… there are two options you can do… eat your lazy meal (spaghetti or whatever) or put on a cooking show and start creating one of your exciting new Pinterest recipes. Get creative! Sometimes I’ll throw on an audiobook while cooking, throw on some traditional music of the country in which the dish came from, or I’ll get my husband to help and we’ll knock out the meal and clean up together. While I’m cooking Monday’s meal, I also sometimes prep Tuesday’s meal. That could mean cutting up veggies ahead of time, putting everything in the crockpot so all I have to do is plug it in Tuesday morning. There are all sorts of ways to make your life easier. Again when everything is done, enjoy and put the rest in Tupperware.
At this point, you may find you have more than a few lunches (depending on how many servings came with your recipe). This is where you can either take a break the next few days or keep repeating the same process and freezing extra lunches you don’t need.
By this point, you might be tired of cooking and just want to chill and watch Netflix. Hell, maybe even go out and have a drink… after all that your boss put you through… you probably deserve an old fashion by now. It’s Thirsty Thursday…. they can’t judge you for throwing some back! In this case, you can either order pizza (have a slice or two then put the rest away for lunches), make some Mac & cheese, go college kid style and make some ramen… you do you… but definitely, have a drink (or two)! Thursdays are a great reason to drink 😉 If you’re going to do a lazy meal this night, make sure to make enough that you have leftovers. Or have some great easy meals in the pantry you can just grab and go. Some of my favs are ramen packs, miso soup packs, and 90-second rice packs + some Bombay potatoes in those 60-second heat-up packs. Easy to just throw those in the microwave the night before, split the rice in two, split the toppings in two, plop in your Tupperware containers and bam… good to go! Another easy option is just to make a quick sandwich…. PB&J…. make it a classic!
At this point, there are probably a lot of leftovers in your fridge, so you can start scrounging, or maybe you planned a big Saturday night feast, or you want to go out to a restaurant… the weekend is your oyster! Plan for the week ahead and enjoy once again.
FYI: A flank steak is an easy slab of meat to cook, and if cut in 4, it’s a great meal + lunch option for 2 people.
How do you guys meal plan and does it change depending on your work schedule?