Meal Planning Series: Intro

Let’s be honest here.

One of the biggest struggles in maintaining good nutrition is:

meal planning!

Not just for yourself, but for the whole family.

Where you don’t feel like a made-to-order cook at a restaurant.

Where you are meeting the food likes of everyone.

Whether you’re cooking just for 1.

Just for 2.

Or the whole family.

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I’ve heard it all. And the truth is, we all have trouble with meal planning. Period.

It’s always a work in progress. You have to learn to keep variety in the routine so you don’t get bored. But you also may need to stick to some pretty structured recommendations if you’re trying to be successful towards any nutrition-related goals.

Clients tell me, “it’s just me, so it’s hard to cook for one person.”

Other clients say, “It’s just the hubby and me, so it’s hard to cook for just for two.” {when they are used to cooking for their kids too}.

And then others with little ones comment, “they are picky which limits what we all can eat.”

So what happens with each of these three different scenarios? They all resort to eating out. Which means- uncontrolled food environments, higher calories, less nutrients, more sodium, less fiber, more expensive!

Adapting! That’s what we have to get good at! Adapting our perspective so that we can take on these new challenges. Adapting our behaviors so we can be successful with our goals.

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This meal planning series is created to help take one less thing off your plate. Maybe you’ll get some inspiration to try a new dish. Maybe you’ll remember an old recipe you loved and can learn to twist it into a healthier version. Maybe you follow this entirely one week out of the month and it helps you save money, time, energy, and stress.

I definitely don’t have it all figured out, but I’m happy to share what has worked for me and my family so you can benefit. I’ll even share what doesn’t work so you don’t have to make my mistakes too!

Meal planning is always one of my weekly goals because we need to keep it interesting, nutritious, and budget-friendly. But let’s face it. You need to find time to make the plan, get input from the fam, write the grocery list,  go to the store, and then actually implement it. I’m a big multi-tasker. You kind of have to be these days right? And I’m a working mom with a 2 year old and a picky husband. So you’re not alone!

Here are the basics to the structure of my weekly meal plan for dinners:

The hubs and I are each good about bringing leftovers for lunch which means we most likely need to cook every night. If you want to prep a different meal to eat off of for lunch each day, then you won’t need to cook every night, maybe only every other night. So this one week meal plan can stretch into two weeks.

7 days in a week = 

1 night of beef

1 night of pork

2 chicken or poultry

2 fish

1 misc.

Now this is the goal, but it doesn’t always work out. Some weeks we don’t have enough fish in the plan – and that’s mostly due to playing around with other ingredients I have on hand at home, trying to clean out the freezer, etc.

For the misc night that could be eating extra leftovers {because someone ate out at lunch or we had extras from a recipe} or it could be the one time during the week we get take out or it could be a night where we fend for ourselves. In our house that tends to be the hubby eating pasta of some sort, me eating breakfast for dinner, and LEM eating whatever she wants because she’s at that stage right now.

Anticipate the week & arrange easier meals, leftovers, or eating out on nights you’ll be getting home late from work or you know you’ll have a long day and just want to order something. Work that into your own plan.

If you’re only cooking for one, then you can stretch these meals out between a couple lunches and dinners and only need to cook a few items each week. If you don’t like to do that or you don’t like leftovers then freeze {in small containers} so you can easily defrost for a quick meal anytime you need! So to be gentle but frank, cooking for one or two, is not a reason to let yourself eat out every night or not an excuse to prevent yourself from eating healthfully at home.

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Now for those with little ones, yes you want to tailor meals towards them but without restricting option so much you limit what they are exposed to. You still want to offer things they like as well as new foods, but without making a totally adult-only friendly meal.

For example:

what not to do:

scenario 1: every one eats something different every night

scenario 2: child eats chicken nuggets + macaroni and cheese while mom & dad eat grilled fish & roasted broccoli

what to do:

everyone likes rice, baby sometime likes salmon, baby doesn’t like broccoli =

whole grain brown rice + baked salmon + roasted broccoli

You consider their likes, but still offer things they don’t like or haven’t tried yet.

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So let’s take a look at what our family’s plan is for this week.

I asked the hubs his input and he wanted 1. pot roast and 2. meat loaf. Now this is breaking my beef once per week rule, but work with what you can.

So to compensate and make sure we get in those heart-healthy fish oils, I made sure that fish made it in the plan twice. Roasted salmon is an easy 20 or 30 minute dinner we can easily make after work as the oven does most of the work. Blackened fish po’boys are our healthier version of the New Orleans classic, but we use whole grain bread, homemade remoulade and minimal sodium added- if any at all- seared fish. And if you want the crunch like a fried version, simply dust on some whole grain corn meal and bake it!

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I have our eating out planned for Friday night as we have been recently taking Friday night runs to Target. Since by the the time we get home from work, less traffic die down, and get home from our adventure, it’s usually too late to cook something super homemade and still get the bedtime routine done in a reasonable time for everyone. So Friday night is take out.

Monday is a later night of work for me, so leftovers are perfect for those late evenings. Thursday this week is also another later night, but I don’t anticipate having left overs. It’s also a potential eating out night {which may mean a quick rearrange of the plan for Friday night}, but as of now I have quick grilled chicken salads. This is something the hubs is best at {grilling} so he can do most of the cooking and I’ll play with LEM when I first get home.

So the only other night left to explain is Wednesday. While Shepard’s pie is not a super fast meal,  I thought I could make cauliflower mashed “potatoes” once with the meat loaf and make enough to use again with the Shepard’s pie. Since we already have beef here twice this week, I opted for turkey instead. We may have enough left overs that we won’t have to make the chicken salads or eat out Thursday.

So there’s some options and room for rearranging as needed. Whatever we may not get to, because life happens and we need to be flexible, I can always put on the plan for next week. That’s actually what happened with the pot roast- I bought the meat last week and we never made it, so it’s on the menu for this week.

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And there you have it- the realistic, flexible, and nutritious meal planning strategies with an example.

Do you have any fool-proof meal planning tips? I’d love to hear them!

xo,

Becca

 

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