Meal planning is simple and the missing key to eating healthy.
Back to school time means back to planning for me. The lazy days of summer are over and it’s time to get back into a routine. When life runs on a schedule it is easier to implement changes in our food. So what does it look like to meal plan? I like to keep things as simple as possible when meal planning.
Meal Planning Basics:
Choose 3 breakfasts that contain ingredients you have peace about and is simple to prepare. By choosing 3, it keeps you from eating the same thing every day and getting bored with the food. You could alternate between 2 meals during the week and leave the third choice for weekends. Some examples could be…eggs over gluten free bread, yogurt with fresh fruit and flax seeds/chia seeds, or 2 pieces of uncured bacon and a banana.
Lunch can vary depending on whether you’re eating at work or at home. We are a homeschooling family so I make lunches for 5. You may pack lunches ahead of time but the concept remains the same. Find a routine, a pattern and stick to it. Examples could be (veggies and sunflower butter, nitrate free lunch meat in a gluten free wrap and a piece of fruit) or (tuna on gluten free bread, fruit and a small salad) or (diced cold chicken breast over a veggie salad).
By choosing a few meals to rotate between it keeps shopping and cooking simple and it’s less stress on your mind for the week. You can always shift the 3 meals out for something else when the season changes so you can include seasonal fruits and veggies.
Supper may need a little more variety than breakfast and lunch but you can still repeat some family favorites. I know that when I find a meal the kids love and I have peace about the ingredients, I hold on to that meal as long as I can. For fall/winter I always include homemade chicken soup in our weekly meals. Making a rich bone broth is healthy, satisfying and there are never leftovers. This could be done in an instapot or crockpot if you don’t have the time.
We usually roast a meat and veggies once a week as well. A chuck roast or whole chicken is great with some roasted potatoes and asparagus. You could also do a cauliflower/potato soup or a chili with a large salad, your favorite fish over quinoa salad or sauteed chicken breast with your favorite veggie.
The point of meal planning is to take the stress away from meal time. You have regular go-to meals that are healthy and fast. This keeps the grocery list shorter and you are able to buy some items in bulk. Try including seasonal fruits and veggies, not only is the nutrition content higher in seasonal veggies but they tend to be cheaper.
Planning ahead takes away the temptation for fast food because you already know what your family will be eating, you already have the ingredients and maybe the food is cooking in the crockpot??
When choosing meals, choose ingredients not prepared foods. Fresh meats, veggies, and fruits have the highest nutritional value compared to frozen and especially canned foods. We do occasionally throw a frozen bag of peas in a soup but for the most part, our ingredients are fresh.
When our busy family doesn’t have a meal plan we are more likely to drive through fast food places or grab a convenience food. It doesn’t take long to sit down and scratch out breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next few weeks, rotating around some staple meals your family loves. The crockpot is perfect for nights when the evening is packed with things to do.
Meal planning is really the missing key to eating healthy. If you think you need more help in this area I recommend the Fresh 20 Cookbook. It uses 20 ingredients for the entire week and lets you swap out gluten and dairy free options.