Meal planning can be an overwhelming process. Now throw in trying to lose weight and feed a family of four and it can seem down right impossible. Pizza anyone? Ha! I know not the answer you wanted to hear.
Don’t worry I have a solution.
I have been preparing family-friendly meal plans for over 4 years. That’s every week for 4 years. Give or take a week that is about 208 meal plans. Wow! That is a lot of meal planning and I have to say I probably tried every process or method out there. So while I don’t feel I cracked the code or revealed any meal planning secrets, I do think I created a process or system that works for me and could also work for you.
This is what my weekly meal planning process looks like:
Review the coming week
Keeping an eye on our weekly schedule is very important in my household. Both of my girls are in dance, sports, and other after school activities. Therefore, I plan meals around our lives. Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays are busy nights so I try to plan quick meals or slow cooker recipes. I save recipes that require more time for Tuesdays, Thursdays, and the weekends. There is no point in planning a meal I won’t have time to prepare. Doing this just results in food waste and frustration. So all my meals are planned around our schedule.
Plan for ALL meals, including snacks
I know many people only focus on dinner but for someone – like myself – who is trying to lose weight or maintain a weight loss it is key to know what foods I will eat at each meal. This includes snacks. I try hard not to wing it with food. The only thing “winging it” results in is grabbing food I regret eating 5 minutes later. Been there done that.
My recipe strategy is relative simple. For the most part I keep breakfast and lunch simple by eating the same things every day. People ask me if I get bored? Sure sometimes I do and when that happens I just switch it up. My reason for keeping breakfast and lunch the same is I don’t want to worry about making something different everyday for those meals. Simple.
Dinnertime is where I have variety. However, I am still adamant about keeping it easy. I tend to get crazy when my food gets complicated and I don’t have time for crazy. One way I keep dinner simple is by keeping a rotation of family favorites. Most weeks you can find tacos, pizza, quesadillas, or all three on my meal plan. I also try to use my slow cooker 1-2 times week. My slow cooker comes in very handy on days I just don’t have time to think about dinner – this is usually 1-2 times a week.
I also have a running list of new recipes I want to try. Most of these recipes I find on Pinterest (I’d love for you to join me on Pinterest here). If I decide to give a recipe a try I will upload it to Plan to Eat and set it in my queue. When I am ready to plan I will go to my queue and drag the recipe into my planner. Easy peasy.
Prepare my meal plan before the weekend
Even though I work at home and can grocery shop anytime I still go on the weekends. Don’t ask me why, I guess I am just a creature of habit. Anyway, for this reason I try my hardest to prepare my meal plan by Saturday morning at the latest. I prefer to have it done by Friday. This way when Saturday comes around all I need to do is print out my grocery list and go. Before discovering Plan to Eat writing out my grocery list used to be my main struggle and frustration with meal planning. Not any more. Now I can have my list in hand – or on my phone – and be out the door grocery shopping in less than 5 minutes. The Plan to Eat grocery list feature has saved me countless hours.
Prep food for the week
My meal plan does not stop once I plug my recipes into the meal planner. It doesn’t even stop after I go grocery shopping. Nope my meal plan is an active document. But…for it to be active and work for me I must prep my food ahead of time.
Depending on the amount of time I have this can include prepping all my meals for the week or maybe just lunch and snacks. One of my favorite food prep sayings is “even a little bit of food prep will make a huge difference”. This means if you only have time to wash and chop strawberries then that’s what you do. Sure maybe you don’t have dinners ready but when you need strawberries to have for snacks or put into a breakfast parfait– its ready.
Another helpful tip is to prep the meal that will make the biggest difference in your week. For example, my week will run smoother when I have mason jar salads ready for lunches. Therefore, if I am short on time I make sure the salads are prepared before anything else. Maybe for you it’s breakfast. If this is the case then preparing a batch of steel cut oats or breakfast burritos might be just what you need to keep your mornings running smooth.
Review my meal plan throughout the week
I don’t know about you but I am very forgetful. I can plan the best weekly meal plan of all time and it can fall apart by Tuesday if I am not intentionally reviewing it. By doing this I can take food out of the freezer if needed or set the slow cooker for the next day. This – like food prep – keeps my meal plan active.
This is what my weekly meal process looks like. It is nothing groundbreaking but it does help me to prepare and eat healthier foods during the week. By planning my meals, prepping my food ahead of time, and reviewing my meal plan throughout the week I have been able to lose almost 40lbs and keep it off.
Tammy, writes about these weight loss systems on her blog Organize Yourself Skinny.