Do you meal plan? Or you’re organised enough and don’t have to? I admit that during those weeks when I do, it keeps me ‘on-plan’ and I never run out of the right foods. Meal planning doesn’t mean you have to stick to it 100%. But it will give you an idea of what to buy in so you have the right ingredients on hand, instead of making do with a less-than-optimal meal because you ran out of everything.
Read some of the tips I use to make meal planning less of a chore and less overwhelming. After all, it’s meant to simplify your life. Not make it more complicated.
1.Stop trying to plan everything
If you’re not that much into meal planning, give yourself some grace and try to ease into it. Don’t plan every single meal. It can become too daunting otherwise. Instead, pick just a few evening meals a week and convert the leftovers to lunches. Soon you’ll get the hang of planning more dinners. Then you can move on to lunch and/or breakfast from there. Baby steps will lead to lasting habits.
2. Stock your favourite kitchen staples
To get into this, always keep your favourite kitchen staples on hand. But choose wisely. Instead of buying dozens of different foods that just take up space and then get forgotten, buy those that you like to use frequently and in more than one dish. For instance, rolled oats can function for porridge, overnight oats, savoury oats and even baked treats. Tofu can be used in soups, wraps and stir-fries. Keep a couple of different whole grains plus a bean-based pasta or two. I like black bean spaghetti and edamame and mung bean pasta. They have fewer carbs, more protein and therefore are more filling. Keep some tofu because it can be used in soups, wraps and stir-fries.
3. Put healthy snack options within reach
Make it easy to grab healthy snacks. Whether you have kids or not, putting healthy snacks where they can be easily seen is a smart idea. It prevents everyone from rummaging around for pre-packaged snacks when you’ve got colourful cut-up veggies with hummus right in the front in the fridge. If you don’t plan for this, ‘snackcidents’ can occur.
4. Side-step side dish problems
On busy nights, don’t overthink side veg. Make a habit of keeping frozen veggies or precut fresh and pre-washed fresh greens around. This way you’ll always have something to serve on the side. On my plans, we fill up half of our dinner plates with vegetables first and then comes all the other ‘stuff’.
When you’re planning ahead, you can batch cook roasted vegetables and have them available throughout the week. Add them as side vegetables, or add to risotto, pasta, wraps, salads and soups.
5. Pack lunches ahead
If tonight’s meal is going into tomorrow’s lunches, portion it all out while you’re in the kitchen. Get everyone’s lunches ready all at once, and you can set yourself up for a more peaceful morning. Having lunch out of the way stops you from worrying about what to eat the next day or rushing around to pack something after breakfast is finished. I hate rushing, don’t you?
And salads? You can pre-prep those for 3 days. Just leave off the dressing until they’re ready to serve.
Once you get more into meal planning, it will come easier, and you’ll find what works best for you.
By planning at least some of your meals, you’ll reduce much of the stress that can come from never having the right ingredients for a healthy and tasty meal.