Meal Planning Tips
ByJoanne Aponte, ND •November 21, 2023
Meal planning does take time, I have not found a way around this! But there are ways to make it easier and less time consuming.
- Set aside time each week to meal plan and write down what you will eat throughout the week.
- A routine and consistency are the key. Have a similar meal schedule each week. For example, on Sundays make a vegetarian meal for dinner, Tuesdays are Salmon and Thursdays are chicken. Make your own meal plan template that fits your schedule, use the one below for an example.
- Choose a few days per week to do the majority of your cooking and meal prep. Each week make some staples ahead of time:
- Chop up a variety of veggies and keep in the fridge
- Prep lunches or breakfasts for the week – I will make an oatmeal bake for breakfasts throughout the week or a batch of quinoa or wild rice for Quinoa bowls and Buddha bowls for the week’s lunches.
- Make a pan of roasted veggies – Brussel sprouts, diced butternut squash and beets
- Make one homemade sauce or dressing to serve with protein and veggies, over noodles or for salads.
- Make a list of meal ideas (with page number of the recipe book or web addresses). Keeping a binder with printouts of recipes is another idea. Each week when you do meal planning, look at your list or binder for ideas. Look up a new recipe 1-2 times per month. If you like it, add it to your list or recipe binder.
- To save time buy things that are precut – I like to make butternut squash soup, to save time I buy the squash in cubes so I can just throw them in the pot with the broth. Have an assortment of frozen veggies and fruits in the freezer – these do not require chopping and are ready to go! For a snack I take frozen mango cubes out of the freezer in the morning, by afternoon they are ready to eat. There are also frozen ginger and garlic cubes available – I will throw these into soups, stews and crockpot meals when I do not have time to chop fresh garlic or ginger.
- Use premade sauces to serve with a protein (chicken, tofu), veggies and starch (rice, quinoa, winter squash). Think pesto, salad dressings, teriyaki or curry sauces. For pre-made sauces I like Kevin’s brand and Primal Kitchen. Trader Joe’s has several good options too.
- Double or triple recipes and freeze to use in following weeks. I keep a list of what meals I have in my freezer so I don’t forget and I look at this each week when I meal plan. Buy extra glass storage containers to freeze things in and buy a second freezer if needed for extra storage.
- Choose simple lunches that are quick to prepare and require very little prep or cooking time. Eat leftovers or use ingredients from dinner. I often make extra ingredients like quinoa, veggies or roasted sweet potato and will add them to my lunch the next day. No time to prepare a whole lunch? Then just prepare part of the meal and get the rest from the grocery store or work cafeteria. For example, I will pick up a curry chicken salad from my local health food store and then I bring my own salad greens and a gluten-free wrap to eat with it.
- Eat leftovers! It’s okay to eat the same thing for 2-3 meals in a row.
- Take a night off – one day per week eat out, pick up something pre-made at a grocery store. Here are some healthier eating out ideas:
- Buy pre-made dinners from your local health food store – a rotisserie chicken with kale salad and roasted butternut squash for example.
- When eating out, think Ethnic foods – Mexican, Thai, Mediterranean. These often have healthier options. Skip the Italian cuisine and other bread and dairy heavy restaurants.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.