Making Mealtimes Easy Part Two: I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

by Heather Bell, MPH, RD, LD

Last time, we focused on creating a catalogue of well-loved meals and snacks.  In today’s post, we’ll focus on basic meal planning as the secret to low-stress meal and snack preparation.

Tip # 1: Do you already use some kind of scheduling tool?  Whether it’s a paper planner, or Google Calendar, use it to look at your schedule for the week in order to determine your food-prep work flow.  

     — Which meals and snacks will you need to take care of this week?  Which ones are being taken care of in some other way (e.g. Dining out with friends, office pot-luck, etc.)?

     — Which days or nights will you have time and energy for food prep?  Which days or nights will you need to have something already made (e.g. Left-overs or a frozen meal)?

     — Which day or night will be best this week for grocery shopping? (Weekly grocery shopping REALLY helps in terms of easy food prep.  You can’t prep what you don’t have, right?)

     — Once you’ve figured out the above, use your favorite tool to block out the time you’ll need—for grocery shopping, food prep, and your next planning session. Whenever you can, plan, shop, and prep at the same times every week.  Habits and routines save us time and energy, so give some thought to where you can automate your self-care with food.

Tip #2: Don’t assume that you HAVE to cook from scratch (or at all).  Our only goal is that you be reliably and enjoyably fed!

It’s important to remember how many options you have for pulling together a meal or snack:

     — Making something from scratch

     — Using already-prepared foods in a recipe (like making chicken-noodle soup from a rotisserie-cooked chicken)

     — Adding fruit or salad plus a glass of milk to a frozen meal (Amy’s Organic and Trader Joes have some great ones!)

     — Choosing fully-prepped entrees and side dishes from a grocery store like Wegman’s or Market Basket

     — Ordering take out or dining out

     — Utilizing the services of a personal chef or meal delivery company

Tip #3: To help save money, and get the most from the shopping you’ve already done, take a moment to inventory your refrigerator and pantry when thinking about which meals you’d like to make for the week.

Enjoyable, satisfying meals are the priority, but if you can make something you love AND use up the broccoli already sitting in the bottom of the refrigerator, then that’s even better!

Tip #4:  Once you have decided what you would like to eat, and know which meals and snacks you’ll be preparing for, putting together a grocery list is easy.  

And now you have options when it comes to grocery shopping, too!  Peapod, Fresh Express, and Amazon Fresh all provide delivery services.  Moreover, if you use an online account that keeps track of previous orders, putting together a grocery list can be even faster and easier.

So there you have it: a basic game plan for managing meal planning that I hope will streamline your self-care and decrease your stress!