Do you ever feel like you’re too busy to eat healthy? Does the question “what’s for dinner?” stress you out? Do you ever find yourself starving at dinnertime and feel the need to grab some takeout or quickly prepare a processed food that isn’t that healthy? Note: my go-to used to be a frozen pizza!
The problem isn’t knowing what is healthy to eat (bring on the veggies!), it’s actually building the process of getting it done easily into our routine. It’s about deciding which foods to buy, what recipe to use and then actually making it. Sounds like a lot, right?
Easy meal planning isn’t hard once it’s built into your routine. I try and minimize my time in the kitchen each week and find that meal planning actually makes my life easier and gives me more time for other things! And, there are different ways to do it. Below, I share with you meal planning benefits, my top tips, as well as some easy recipes that you can use to get you started.
- More time – overall, you will be spending less time in the kitchen each week giving you more time for things that you want to do.
- More money – you will save on expensive take-out and pre-prepared foods and buy just what you need without a bunch of extras.
- More energy – when you eat less processed, you are likely to sleep better making you feel more rested in the morning and giving you more energy.
- Better health – when your healthy food is ready, you’re less likely to give into cravings for unhealthy options.
First decide what kind of meal planner you are. This generally falls into 2 categories:
- Select specific recipes and decide which days you will eat which and when you will have leftovers. I recommend selecting 4-5 dinners (enough to have leftovers for lunch), 2-3 snacks and 2-3 breakfasts.
- Batch cook a bunch of proteins and veggies, make a few dips and dressings and baked goods without the need for recipes. Proteins can be baked, sautéed, roasted, grilled and veggies can be steamed, sautéed or roasted. More starchy carbs such as whole grains can also be pre-cooked and everything can be mixed and matched during the week.
Either way, you will be making a shopping list of what you need to do the above. On a typical week, I recommend doing the planning and shopping on a Saturday and the cooking on a Sunday to spread out the work. You should be able to cook everything you in a couple of hours on Sunday. If you want to spread out the work, you can also pick one weeknight (say, Wednesday) to make some of the food.
I recommend cooking the amount of food your family can eat in 1 week and getting it done in either 1 or 2 sessions as mentioned above. That way, you don’t need to freeze anything. By doing everything in 1-2 sessions, you can use your stovetop and oven for multiple dishes at the same time, so total time in the kitchen each week is reduced, and healthy food is ready at a moment’s notice.
To save even more time, you can buy frozen/canned options and pre-chopped fruits and vegetables.
Ideas to Try (Note: Check out all my recipes here)
Breakfasts – Make ahead breakfasts give you something to grab quickly in the morning such as:
- My Favourite Flax Bread Top with sliced/mashed avocado
- Strawberry Beet Smoothie You can pre-prep ingredients (without the liquid) the night before
- Nana’s Granola for a Crowd Making your own lets you control how much sugar is included
- Blueberry Hemp Overnight Oats
Snacks – having healthy snacks or desserts handy helps you avoid unhealthy, processed options. You can also prepare hard boiled eggs and cut up veggies to have on hand. Snacking is where many people struggle with staying healthy, so make sure that you keep your snacks healthy.
Lunch/Dinner – having dinner pre-prepped means you can get it on the table quick and pack up the leftovers for lunch (saving you money from eating out). As long as you have enough protein left over from dinner (or hard-boiled eggs), you can use that to top salad greens and veggies with an easy oil and vinegar dressing for lunch.
- Spiced Chicken with Roasted Balsamic Vegetables
- Slow Cooker White Bean Chicken Chili
- Instant Pot Beef Stew
- Fish Taco Bowl
- Sautéed Kale Buddha Bowl
Meal planning is an essential (and eventually easy) part of healthy eating. If you want a done-for-you meal plan to get you started, download this 5 day plan here.