As a newbie to the world of meal planning. Everything about the process can seem extremely overwhelming. From the decision to start down to the execution. However, it’s not all bad and can actually thoroughly benefit you both when trying to lose weight and eat healthier in general. The biggest roadblock comes in the form of, are you doing it on your own or do you have a partner or full fledged family that’s involved as well.
The Jar Method
So, here’s an easy way to handle that. One, if you’re on your own and literally just planning for yourself. Then you’re all set to move onto step number one. However, if you’re meal planning and cooking for yourself and a partner or your family then the easiest way is to get them involved. A full proof way to do this is to have them choose with you. If you’re someone who is a dollar tree frequenter then next time you’re there pick up some popsicle sticks, a jar with a lid and a marker.
The prep for this is easy. Everyone involved names off a meal that they’d love to eat on rotation. Those meals get written, one to each popsicle stick. Then you put all your popsicle sticks in your jar and give it a good shake. For the sake of explaining the next step we’ll just say it’s you and your partner picking. Each person picks every other meal from the popsicle sticks. This means that for the first week if you went first and got to pick 4 of the 7 recipes then your partner would start off on the next week’s choices.
This method accomplishes two things. The first is that you both approve of what you’re meal prepping, the second is that it takes the guesswork out of what meals you’re going to make for that week. This same concept works for individuals and families as well which makes it extremely versatile.
Something else to consider is that, because you’re putting your favorite meals into the jar on these popsicle sticks. You can truly tailor it for any form of diet. Meaning if you’re wanting to maintain your weight, lose weight, or even gain weight you’re in control. That and when you make your food instead of eating processed or take-out you know exactly what is going into the recipe.
The Game Plan
Okay, so you’ve got your food choices and have all the recipes laid out in front of you. There are a few things that need to happen next. One, break up different foods if they’re similar in taste. In other words, if you’re having quesadillas one night and home-made tacos another night, spread them out.
Basically, plan out what each meal will be for each day. Here’s an example: You and your partner pulled sausage gumbo, baked chicken alfredo without pasta, beef and cheese quesadillas, chicken pesto pasta, cajun chicken pasta, salmon, and chicken bacon ranch casserole. Because you have two pasta dishes and a casserole dish, you’re going to want to spread them out. Therefore, you’re menu may look something like this:
Monday: cajun chicken pasta with green bell pepper
Tuesday: salmon with asparagus
Wednesday: beef and cheese quesadillas
Thursday: chicken bacon ranch casserole
Friday: baked chicken alfredo with broccoli
Saturday: sausage gumbo with fresh okra
Sunday: chicken pesto pasta with fresh basil
This essentially gives you a roadmap to what ingredients you’ll need and when. Which of course brings us to our next section. Not only that, it’s the section that almost everyone gets hung up on. Especially when budgeting and still managing to eat healthy.
Groceries, Groceries, and More Groceries!
Let’s be completely honest. You do not need organic, grass fed anything to get results. However, if that’s your jam, more power to you. Now, one of the easiest ways to bring down cost is to buy on sale as much as possible and this doesn’t always mean grocery store hopping or settling for the more expensive prices.
Let’s take another look at our jar method shall we. That’s where it all begins after all. One thing you can do to reduce cost, if only for your produce. Is to take out all of the recipes for a certain season that involve produce that isn’t an in season product. Or, if you’re making a dish and haven’t chosen a specific vegetable side yet, buying frozen variations are just as great as buying fresh. Not only that, they will last longer as well simply because they’re frozen. So it’s a win-win really.
Another method to save on meal planning when you’re first starting out or even have been doing it for a while is to buy meat on sale and in bulk. Then once you get it home, prep and divide your meats into freezer bags. Thawing the meat as needed and also saving you some extra money in the process.
Portion Size Really Matters
Now, if you’re meal planning for weight loss or just in general, portioning does actually make a difference. One, eating an actual portion size can help you manage and lose weight. Two, if you’re following the portion sizes based on the recommended guidelines of the recipe and want to track macros or calories then it’s easier to keep it on point. And three, you’re more than likely going to be able to spread the leftovers out as lunches during the week. Which will make it 10 times easier if you’re constantly on the go.
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