Hi Outshine Friends! This month, our friend Jamie Noelle is taking over the blog to share some important tips on meal planning. She might be using some of our products to help her:)
So read on for all of her wise words on getting yourself in check for weekly meal planning! Enjoy! And check out all of the great stuff on her blog at:
Meal Planning: The Good, The Bad & The Yummy!
If you are anything like me, food is your love language.
It is your way of communicating that you care about people. I
It can also be your biggest vice.
Figuring out dinner can become frustrating, discouraging, expensive, timely, and just plain terrible.
This is where I say to you: meal plan. No matter your previous feelings about meal planning I will tell you that it has been the single thing that has made eating in a way that makes me feel good on a consistent basis possible in my house. Having a plan helps me feel a little bit more in control and also helps me think a little less about food when it comes time to actually eat.
Let out your grumble now, but I promise that this is not going to be the typical guide to meal planning. I will not prescribe some “wellness” junk onto your life and demand that you spend 4 hours every Sunday prepping all of your meals in advance.
Nope, nope, nope.
I WILL NOT tell you to eat salads 4 times a week and never go out.
That is fine and well and works for some, but I am a believer that diets don’t work and too much meal prepping can make you feel restricted ,which can plunge you and your body into a gross cycle of restriction and bingeing. I am going to share with you what has worked for me and how I flex my meal plan throughout the week to meet my mental, physical, and taste bud-al (that definitely isn’t a word but I was going for the symmetry) needs.
From start to finish, here is an honest recap of how I meal plan, and how a week’s worth of meals actually played out.
Step one:Build up your toolbox.
Meal planning is not the easiest thing in the world, but without a notebook, recipe box, Pinterest board, or all three packed with your favorite recipes and lists of go-to ingredients, it is going to be a heck of a lot harder. This process is not about trying a new recipe 5 nights a week, but rather having go-to recipes that you can pull from and incorporating a new recipe every now and then. It's also about knowing what you cook, and what you like and getting creative with putting things together to make a meal.
Tip: You need more than 5 go-to recipes; boredom will send your meal plan into a spiral of doom quicker than anything else. Also food is fun so don’t limit yourself. In case you need to be inspired, here is my Pinterest board with some of my favorite recipes. And here are a few other of my favorite go-to dinners:
Italian Meatball and Orzo Soup
Cajun Sausage and Broccoli Pasta
No Evil Foods Vegan Chorizo Caesar Salad (we frequently make this recipe with regular chorizo - it’s freakin’ delicious)
Bruschetta Chicken and Pesto Pasta
Greek Chicken Bowls
Pro-tip: This is my recipe box.
Whenever I find a new recipe I like, it gets a card. That way, all of my favorites are in one place, and I have a lot of favorites...
Step two:Set expectations.
Plan for how many meals you actually want to end up cooking. If you are currently eating OUT 4 nights a week, planning to eat IN 7 nights a week might not be all that realistic. Think about it like this, if you currently wake up at 8 a.m. and want to start waking up at 5 a.m. switching your schedule all at once, might not work that well, but if you gradually adjust, waking up 30 minutes earlier each day over the course of a week you’ll be much more likely to succeed. Just because you are making a meal plan, don’t feel like you have to start out cooking every single meal you eat. I usually only plan for 6 meals each week because I know that there will be at least one night that my husband and I will likely go out for dinner.
Step three:Know yourself.
Are you wishy-washy? A picky-eater? Do you tend to over-commit? Those types of characteristics can make sticking to a meal plan, much more difficult - but its also why a meal plan can be so so freeing.
I know because I fall into all three categories.
Foods I love sometimes don’t sound good to me simply because it is Wednesday or because I am sad. Or let’s be real, because it’s that time of the month. I keep this in mind while meal planning so that I can easily swap out the veggies, pasta, or protein on any given recipe without totally disrupting my entire meal plan.
Step four: Make a list.
Start by picking out the recipes, or pairing main dishes with side dishes. With the exception of some sheet pan meals and soups, most of our meals consist of a protein, a carb, and 1-2 veggies. Once I have picked out meals, I make a grocery list. I try to keep my list categorized, veggies, meat, canned goods (mostly tomatoes), then dairy. That way when you get to the store, shopping is a breeze.
P.S. Don’t forget snacks and breakfast on your grocery list - those are must-haves. For me, that mostly looks like adding oatmeal, yogurt, granola, bagels, and fruit to my shopping list.
Pro-tip: Use a meal plan and grocery list in one. Since I favor my happy planner, I have inserts for each week, but a notepad like this one can come in handy.
Pro-pro-tip: Leftovers for lunch! When I am planning my meals and buying ingredients, I always get enough for 4 servings (yes, there are only two of us) this way, lunch is ready to go the next morning and we are never wasting money on eating out at lunchtime. Alternatively, you can also make lunch prep a breeze by simply making extra protein and pairing it with a salad - that is, if you like lettuce.
Step five: Be flexible.
This one is tricky. With your meal plan in place, it is important to be flexible, to know that something could come up and you need to rearrange your plan a little bit. It is also important not to be too flexible. Skipping out on your entire meal plan in lieu of eating out is not an option here. Sometimes stomach aches, headaches, or impromptu meetings throw a wrench in my plan and I swap meals around, there is nothing wrong with this as long as you stick to the meal plan as a whole. That’s the important part, otherwise, you end up discouraged and with a lot of food waste.
Pro-tip: If a craving hits and you decide to eat out, rearrange the meal plan so that your recipe with ingredients that won’t go bad can be used next week!
So start to finish, here is how my meal planning went:
I planned and made a list on Thursday. I like to order my groceries online through Walmart and pick them up on Saturday to save time. Y’all this is magical, I haven’t stepped inside a Walmart in over a month! And yes, to avoid paying twice as much for all the produce I buy, I do purchase our groceries at Walmart. This is a judgment-free zone. Use this link to save $10 on your first Walmart pick-up order.
Here’s the meal plan. I don’t assign each meal to a specific day because I know I could never stick to the schedule so this plan serves more as a guideline rather than a rigid rule.
Greek Chicken Bowls (Greek Chicken w/ tri- color quinoa and veggies for dinner - greek chicken salad for lunch)
Italian Meatball Soup w/ Kale and Orzo
Cajun smoked sausage and broccoli pasta
Bruschetta Chicken w/ pesto pasta and brussel sprouts
Lemon Pepper Salmon w/ veggie Israeli couscous and green beans
Chorizo caesar salad
What happened with this meal plan is that I forgot to buy kale, so instead of making Italian meatball soup, we went and got dinner at Chili’s and it perfectly satisfied my dinner craving. To make sure the ground beef for the meatballs didn’t go bad, I went ahead and made them, cooked them, and stuck them in the freezer. No food waste, and now when I go to make the soup next week, it’s one step easier. Instead of brussel sprouts with bruschetta chicken we had a side salad, just because. When day after day salmon didn’t sound good to me, we pulled a frozen pork tenderloin out of the freezer and had pork tenderloin with our couscous and green beans instead of salmon.
What am I getting at exactly?
Meal planning does not need to be perfect, it just needs to work for you and your family. It needs to be planned enough that you aren’t banging your head against the fridge each night desperate to figure out what’s for dinner, but flexible enough that cooking delicious meals at home doesn’t feel like a “have to” or a restriction in your life. And lastly, cooking doesn’t have to be difficult. Things like pre-seasoned pork tenderloins, or a spice mix can make dinner feel like a breeze.
Have other tips for meal planning? Questions, comments or concerns? Feel free to contact me directly at my blog (its linked above) or on instagram @withgraceandhonesty..
With grace and honesty,
Chorizo cesar salad & whole 30 hamburger bowls with special sauce. YUM!