Meal Planning 101
This week I'm switching it up from my usual Weekly Eats post and instead posting about the behind-the-scenes of my meals. A common question I get after I post my weekly round-up of meals and snacks is "Where do you find the time to cook all this?". The simple answer is I don't. I plan out what I'll be eating for most of the week, then make the bulk of my meals over the weekend. I basically eat pre-prepared meals, or "leftovers", through most of the week. Every now and then I'll make something new in the middle of the week if I'm getting a too tired of eating the same thing over and over, but most of the time, making small changes to a main dish is enough for me.
Let's start with the nitty-gritty. What is meal planning?
Meal planning is exactly as it sounds - planning out what you'll be eating throughout the week. It can be as general or as detailed as you would like it to be. You don't even have to write anything down, as long as you have an idea of what you'll be eating during the week, you'll be fine.
Why should you be meal planning?
- Saves you lots of money. Most people tend to just grab whatever looks good when grocery shopping. Before I started meal planning, I would grab random ingredients thinking I would use them eventually, and would end up just throwing them out after discovering they had expired some time later. I might as well have just been throwing my money away from the get-go!
- Less stress. You no longer have to wonder what you'll be eating when you go home! I like to go an extra mile with this by actually prepping my meals earlier in the week, so I know that even if I'm dead tired from practice, there will be something I can just heat up relatively quickly and enjoy.
- Fewer trips to grocery store. I used to go to the grocery store all the time, wasting time that I could be using to do other things, like studying (or napping). Now I go once a week, twice if I forget something or decide to deviate from my plan, which rarely happens.
- It's healthier. I eat out a lot less because I know I have food at home or I've packed something to-go. It's also easier to eat healthier because you pretty much know exactly what you'll eat and when. And seeing the list written out makes it easier to see where you might be lacking in the healthy food department.
OK, you've convinced me. How do I meal plan?
Meal planning is as easy as making a grocery list and sticking to it. All you have to do is make sure you keep in mind what you'll be using each item for. You get extra points for buying things that can be used in multiple dishes, like chicken or spinach. If you're someone who needs things to be detailed, you can download a weekly meal planning sheet from thenectarcollectivehere, and write out the exact meals you'll be making every day. There's also a column for fitness activities you might want to do during the week, as extra motivation if you ever need it.
This is my grocery list for the week. The ?'s means I'll look to see if those are on sale because I don't need them urgently for this upcoming week
You have all the food you need now. What's next?
Being an athlete as well as a senior in college provides me with very little time to cook most of the week, and on days that I do have time, I'm usually exhausted from practice and just the idea of cooking sounds impossible. My solution? Meal Prepping.
On Saturday I plan my meals and go grocery shopping, and on Sunday I cook and prepare things that can be made ahead of time for the week. I'm sure you've noticed that I eat a lot of pasta most weeks. That's because pasta sauce is easy to make in bulk and keeps well in the fridge or freezer. Most weeks I make a big pot of it, and whenever I need something quick for lunch or dinner, I just cook whatever pasta I have lying around, warm up some sauce, and I'm done. All it takes 15 minutes at most just because I decided to cook ahead of time.
So whenever you can, have things cooked or ready to go for the week to make things easier on yourself. If you need any ideas or help, you can Google quick and easy meals to make or keep an eye out here for some future meal ideas.
Do any of you meal plan already? How do you like it? And if you don't meal plan, will you be giving it a try now? Let me know below!
Stay Healthy! ❤ Gemma