Easy Meal Planning 101 For a Flexible Life
In the first episode of my new reality tv show series, The Flexible Life, I met an awesome woman named Nani who was craving a better approach to family meal planning and was having some trouble getting her boys to skip the junk in favor of more healthful, nourishing options (like a salad that’s not drenched in a heavy caesar dressing 😉).
Challenge: accepted. Here is my meal planning 101 tips!
The (Many, Many) Benefits of Meal Planning
What I shared with Nani is that meal planning 101 is the main ingredient to seamless family meals (and I’m not talking about the takeout food app of the same name). But when meal planning is super rigid and perfectionistic, it can be more of a burden than a godsend. The key, of course, is finding that flexible middle ground – an approach to meal planning that gives you some much-needed structure while leaving wiggle room for things like missing ingredients or picky eaters.
I’m a big fan of meal planning for a million different reasons, but to name a few:
Meal planning helps you to…
- Avoid spending money on takeout delivery
- Avoid impulse eating (whether it’s ordering takeout or filling up on snacks at home just because they’re accessible)
- Save time for relaxing and hanging out with family
- Feel more aligned with your core values
- Feel more in control of your day-to-day life
- Have healthful, ready-to-make meals at your fingertips
So if you’re ready to claim all of that good stuff for yourself, then let’s get into how this whole meal planning thing actually works.
How to Meal Plan with Ease
First thing’s first: set aside a day of the week for recipe research! Whether it’s how you choose to end the week or start a new one, carve out 15 or 30 minutes once a week to flip through the cookbooks on your shelf, poke around on Pinterest (you can find my curated recipe boards here), or scroll through the recipe archives here.
Once you decide what sounds good, assign a recipe to each day of the week and start a list of the groceries you need to pick up. Also take stock of what ingredients you already have – as well as if they’ll still be fresh by the time you need to use them.
Armed with your fresh groceries and newly minted recipe list, it’s time to start the meal prep! While you can certainly cook and portion out your meals now, I tend to find that version of meal prep a little too limiting.
To me, flexible food prep is about preparing your ingredients, not preparing the whole meal: getting the chicken marinating so that it’ll be extra flavorful for tomorrow’s dinner, cleaning and chopping veggies, and making sauces or dips.
That way, ingredients are always ready to throw together in just a few minutes when it’s time for dinner!