While I usually do lots of posts on the topic of meal prep, today I’m flipping it and writing about my before-the-prep work: meal planning! I’ll be going over my general thought process with an example to help readers get an idea. HOWEVER, it is important to understand that there are so many different ways to plan and prep your meals. This works for me, but make sure you find and do what works for you–trial and error process.
I used to write out a chart with every meal of every day of the week planned and written out. I would easily spend an hour stressing out about what to plan and make for the week–trust me it was not fun. I’m not saying write out your plan is bad, it’s actually a great thing especially if you’re new or have trouble planning and sticking to plans. However, with my obsessive control during my ED and even now in recovery I took it over the top. Now, I still plan out my meals however I think of it out in my mind, and create my list from there. 1) It’s much easier this way and 2) I eat more random bowls or plates of food thrown together rather than actual meals. I’ll still cook 1 maybe 2 meals a week such as spaghetti squash, pasta, or stir fry; however, most of my lunch and dinners consist of random bowls with the different components I’ve prepped.
The first way I go about it is to think ahead to my week and decide if there are any meals I won’t be preparing. This may be I feel like going out, going home so I won’t need to cook, or another event such as an intern BBQ or lunch meeting at work. So let’s say that I have an intern BBQ Sunday lunch and am going out Friday for dinner to treat myself; that’s 12 meals I still need for the week. From there, I break that into meals and the different components I want. I’ll decide on zucchini and broccoli for my veggies in my bowls, turkey lunch meat for lunch (5 days), ground chicken for dinners (4 nights), etc. Typically ground meats come in 16 oz packages creating, for me, 4 meals. Then, I’ll leave 2-3 meals open per week because I’ll make eggs, protein pancakes, oatmeal, etc. as I feel it that night.
I’ll do the same breaking out my carbs, healthy fats, etc. I typically just estimate how much I’ll need (3 large sweet potatoes for 5 days) or buy potatoes in bulk, boxes of rice, bread, etc. I’ll also add other veggies in such as bell peppers, tomatoes, or spinach to add on the top of bowls or put in my eggs as well as fruit and other snacks. From here, I’ll make my grocery list. This is very important. Creating a list and sticking to it ensures that you have enough food for the week and that you don’t over indulge and splurge on other items you don’t need, not on your list.
With meal planning, you can be as strict or specific as you want or as free as well. I would recommend doing some sort of planning to create a shopping list and to make sure that you have plans for dinner. This will help you resist eating out or grabbing fast food so often, and stick to your healthy lifestyle. For meal prep examples, ideas, types, etc. search “meal prep” on the blog!!