Are you planning your meals? If you are, then Keep Going!
But if you wander into your kitchen and decide what to have only when you get there, you're less likely to make a good choice. Or, worse yet, if you’re driving home from a long day, feeling hungry and you choose your next meal based on what drive-through option is nearest, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
If you want to set yourself up for making better food choices, make those choices before you get hungry or tired. You need a plan.
Meal planning can take time and effort. Planning doesn't take as much time as you think. Nor will it take as much time as losing the weight that poor choices will pile on. Meal planning will save you time from wandering around your kitchen opening one door after another to see if there’s any food that interests you or that sounds good to eat. Planning what you’ll eat will also save you money and simplify your week.
To start meal planning in one small step, take five to ten minutes to list your next 3 dinners, your next 3 breakfasts, or your next 3 meals.
what vegetable and fruits you’ll choose;
what protein you’ll add; and
what carbohydrates/starches you’ll have.
You could start with lunches during the work week. I'd suggest starting with one meal (or snack) that can make the biggest difference for you. It could be dinners. Dinners can become lunches the next day and dinner may thebe time that your family is in one location at the same time. Breakfasts could be a challenge your you. It might be hard to get the right mix to fuel your day as you rush out the door in the morning for work. Start there. Don't forget your snacks. If you plan your snacks, you're more likely to eat healthier and cheaper and end up with more energy.
You could record your meal or snack list on an index card, on your calendar, or a note on the refrigerator.
Check your schedule to make sure that what you’ve listed works for you and your time commitments. This is meal planning on a small scale.
If you’re interested in meal planning as a permanent strategy to making healthier choices easier - keep it simple and easy to do every week.
Keep it simple. Try using the old-fashioned application of pen to paper. I've tried several apps and software programs over the years, and it took too much time to set up, there was always something I wanted to do differently, and eventually, there was a hitch in seeing my plan or creating my shopping list. If you're already using an app or software and it's working for you, keep going and let me know what you're using. If you aren't meal planning now, start with paper.
Make it a routine. Create your plan on the same day of the week, even at the same time of day. Decide whether you're planning for the week or just the next four days. The more consistent you are the easier it will be to continue.
List the days you're planning for.
Look at your schedule for the week and record meal ideas next to each day.
Are there any days you'll be later than usual? Make those slow cooker days or your favorite throw-it-together meals. Pull out your appliances that help make cooking easier and faster, especially the ones you don't have to watch (slow cooker, pressure cookers, rice cookers, George Foreman grills, and your microwave). Even the cook and hold feature on your oven can allow you the freedom to do other things while dinner is cooking.
Any special occasions or get together with friends? Put those down. You might need to add something to your shopping list to take with you.
Do you have any set days? Friday is always pizza and a movie night for us.
Now decide what to cook.
Check your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry. Anything there to use as your main ingredients?
Check what's on sale and start with those as your main ingredients.
Pull out your recipes.
Look for the slow cooker recipes or the quick-n-healthy ones.
If you collect recipes, try a new one and see if it's a keeper or not, but assign it for a day you're not rushed. Need help organizing your recipes? Check out [Appendix] Organize Your Recipes (As-Is) and use them today instead of waiting for 'someday' to organize your recipes perfectly.
Any favorites you've been wanting?
Make a shopping list of all the meal ingredients you don't have on hand. This is the place I've found high-tech useful if it's kept simple, but paper and pencil work just fine. Just remember to put the list where you'll find it when you go shopping. If nothing else, take a picture of it on your cell phone so you have a backup list if needed.
Post your meal plan on your refrigerator or somewhere you can see it when you get home and are hungry and tired. Your plan saves you time and energy wondering what to have.
Go shopping for what's on your list.
When you're back home from shopping, pull everything out of your bags and boxes and put them away. See Organizing Your Kitchen Pantry.
Enjoy the freedom of having a plan and remember it is flexible if circumstances change. The plan is more a guideline than a rule.
Sometimes before you’re able to make a behavior a habit, you need to establish your WHY. Why do you want to plan your meals? Forget that you think you should and focus on what’s in it for you. What’s the payoff for this commitment?
Is it to save money? What will you do with that money? Pay the mortgage or go on a dream vacation?
Is it to manage your time better? What will you do with that extra time? Will you take time for yourself, organize your closet, read a book, build your business, or simply enjoy time with your family?
Is it to lose weight? You will want to make those meals enjoyable and meal planning a permanent change, not just a onetime activity this month.