Last week, we talked all about how to get back on track with your health goals overall (check out that post here). Today, it’s time to narrow our focus and talk about renewing our commitment to meal planning and food prep.
If you’ve seen my Instagram or Facebook, you know I’m pretty into meal planning and food prep. I have a whole post about the benefits of meal planning … basically, it saves 5 hours per week and $2300 per year, is twice as healthy, and makes life less stressful! Seems like a winning combination to me!
But if you’re working at home lately, or feeling in a “funk” because of 2020 life, or if you’ve just let your meal planning and food prep slide a little, today I have 7 tips to help you renew your commitment to meal planning and food prep:
- Systematize it. Rather than figuring out your meal plan on the fly each week, I recommend having a system that helps you structure your meal planning each week. Of course, I meal plan (and goal set, and day plan, and health track!) in my Pepper Planner and highly recommend that! Whatever your system, though, make it something you turn to each week. I also recommend scheduling time in your calendar. If you think “oh, I hope I’ll meal plan and food prep sometime this weekend…” then not only is it less likely to happen, but it’s also stressful to keep it circulating in your mind. We’ve all played that game … “if I just push it back 36 minutes, I’ll still have juuuuust enough time…”! That’s a lot of extra thought. Instead, meal planning is in my calendar from 6:30-7am each Sunday (I know!), grocery shopping from 7:30-8:30am, and meal planning and food prep right after. Does it ever get moved? Of course!!! But I never just delete it from my calendar. If something comes up during those times, I shift it like I would any other appointment, and I figure out if I need to do it Saturday, or Sunday evening, or whenever.
- Buy something new. Please be financially responsible here, and if this isn’t in the budget, just skip this step. But having the right food storage containers (I love glass ones like these) or a new Instant Pot (I love this one), or even new cookbook (I recommend the Defined Dish or Cook Once, Eat All Week) can make us more excited to get started in the kitchen. Not into buying a physical thing? How about scoping out a brand new produce item at the grocery store?
- Reframe how you think about it. Look, I get it, spending 2+ hours on your precious weekend can feel like a drag. But whenever my mind dips into “poor me” territory regarding my meal planning and food prep (which, let’s be honest, is often!), I redirect my thoughts in several ways:
- I am so fortunate to have access to food, a kitchen, and the freedom of time to be able to food prep
- This is going to make my life soooo much easier this week!
- Let’s see how FUN I can make this! Feel free to turn on some tunes and dance your way through food prep, listen to an interesting podcast or audiobook, or race against the clock to engage your competitive side. (If you want more tips on how to save time while food prepping, check out this post!)
- Try 1 new recipe per week. I do not recommend overhauling your routine and making every single thing brand new. You’ll spend hours in the kitchen and end up frustrated. But I do recommend trying out one new recipe each week. Want some ideas? Check out some of these posts:
- Try a bingo card approach. Does the idea of meal planning and food prep stress you out, because you just don’t want to be tied down to eating a specific thing on a specific night? A lot of my clients feel like this, and I encourage them to take a Bingo Card approach. They simply calculate how many meals they want to make (let’s say 5 breakfasts + 4 lunches + 4 dinners) and write them in a list or a chart that they post on their fridge. Then, each meal, they check the list to see what is available, determine what sounds best, eat it, and cross it off the list. A little built-in flexibility with a lot of time savings!
- Remember your “why.” When I complain in my head and wonder if I could just skip meal planning and food prep this week only, I remind myself what happens when I don’t do it. I work til 7 or 8pm, depending on the night, and I start getting ready for bed before 9pm, so there’s just not much time to think about a meal, cook it, and eat it. If I want a healthy dinner that makes me feel great, and don’t want to add extra stress to my week, food prep is my life saver! Your situation might be different, but whatever it is, remember the reason behind your efforts.
- Come up with a LIST of fall back options. Even when my clients start meal planning and food prepping, I have them come up with a physical list of fall back options. This is a list of 4-5 restaurants they can order from, or super quick throw-together meals (e.g. frozen veggies + a few eggs + jarred salsa) that they can turn to in a pinch. It sounds obvious, but when we’re in the middle of a stressed-out frenzy, our brain is quick to say “ah! I can’t have the gourmet, organic, healthy meal I planned to … McDonald’s is my only option!” And really, there are plenty of things in between. Have that emergency list to turn to, so you can save yourself from frenzied panic.
Now it’s your turn … What’s one way you stay committed to meal planning and food prep? What are your favorite meal planning tips?