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We’ve gone through a couple fundamentals of meal planning and batch cooking. In Part 1 of this article series, we talked about Supplies and Accessories. In Part 2, Recipes and On-The-Go Ideas were discussed.
Because this activity is so essential to having a lifestyle of healthy nutrition, which is essential for good health, my goal is to provide you some resources and tools that will help you make meal planning and batch cooking effective, efficient, healthier, and a routine part of your lifestyle, while providing wonderful benefits, such as:
- Results in eating healthier and sticking to your dietary plan
- Avoids decision paralysis (what do I make or what can I have?) & free up your brain space for other things
- Provides healthy “ready made” meals and snacks
- Saves money
- Reduces stress
- Improves dietary variety for greater nutrition consumption
- Reduces waste
- Aids in weight loss
Because meal planning and batch cooking has such great benefits, and is such an important activity as part of a healthy lifestyle, let’s keep going. This article, Part 3 of this series, is going to focus on the third Fundamental, “Calendar With Weekly Menu.”
- Supplies and Accessories – click here for the details of this in Part 1 of this article series
- Recipes and “On-The-Go” Ideas – click here for the details of this in Part 2 of this article series
- Calendar With Weekly Menu
- Grocery List and Shopping
- Batch Cooking
CALENDAR WITH WEEKLY MENU
Now that you have recipe ideas, you can create your weekly meal plan. You can certainly do a bi-weekly plan, which will require a larger grocery list, and additional meal prep and batch cooking. That is typically more feasible when you have a smaller family. Some of the food you prepare may actually be enough to cover into the following week’s menu so it will depend on what you prepare and how many servings you make.
Let’s look at some example meal plans from some of my previous clients. The first one is a basic meal plan. It is only 5 days worth because this client is served dinner at another family’s home a couple days in a week. It also only includes lunch and dinner. This client typically will either not eat breakfast or have a smoothie, and does not need snack content provided. The second one is a more complex meal plan and is for a full week. For each day, it includes 3 meals, a snack, and a treat after dinner.
Basic 5-Day Meal Plan
Notice there are 5 different meals made because leftovers are used. This makes is super simple. You can even make it simpler by having the same thing a couple times, by which you would only make 4 recipes.
Full Week Complex Meal Plan
As you can see, this meal plan is much more involved. However, there is still not as many recipes as you may think because leftovers are used, breakfast options are on alternating days, the same treat is used for each day, and there is a plan for eating out a few times, whether for lunch or dinner. The comment section also includes a backup option for Friday evening dinner that would not require making anything.
Though there are a number of steps, they are simple ones. I want to break it down to make it easier for you and let you see that it is not so complex when you take it one small step at a time.
- Get out a note pad or even a blank calendar so you can visualize (makes it easier), and start making notes. This will be your draft version. Here are some meal planner templates to get you started: https://www.template.net/business/plan-templates/weekly-meal-planner-templates/
- Identify the meals you will not need to plan for making because you will be eating out, just grabbing a snack, being served by someone else, making a special one-time meal, having a smoothie, or other reason. Sometimes folks use a meal delivery service, which I spoke of in this article. If you do that say a couple days per week, you prepare one-time meals from the ingredients and recipe they deliver to your door. This means you do not have to plan for making or having anything for those meals.
- Once you know what meals/snacks you do not need to plan for making or having, determine how many and what meals/snacks you will need.
- Determine what meals you will have leftovers. You may decide you can have the same dinner on Monday and Thursday and your lunches are based on leftovers from the dinner the previous night. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having leftovers on Wednesday or Thursday from a dinner you had Monday night just to break it up. For most animal protein foods, after preparing, they can usually keep well in the fridge for about 3 days, and other items are fine for 4 days. If it will be longer than that, it is best to freeze and pull back out to defrost for re-heating. You may also re-heat from frozen, depending on the item.
- Based on what you will need to prepare for, identify the recipes and foods you need for the specific meals/snacks. You will also need to determine how many servings you want to make of those recipes and foods. To do that, you need to keep in mind your plan for leftovers and whether you want to make enough for a separate weekly meal plan. That is always helpful and will depend on your family size.
- Now you are ready to put your final weekly meal plan calendar together. To avoid confusion and mistakes, it is best to notate each meal/snack for each day. Regardless whether it is indicated as a leftover, you are eating out, it is a smoothie, or anything else, put it on the calendar. It is so helpful to have a full picture layout.
- Post your final calendar on the fridge or easy to view place in your kitchen.
- Review your calendar daily, especially so you can monitor what you may need to out of the freezer to thaw for dinner or the next days meals.
You also have the option of delegating out your meal plan creations. Here are a couple options:
- You can subscribe to RealPlans. This is an app/online software that provides hundreds if not thousands of recipes (all in one place), that you can customize for you, and you can generate a meal plan personalized for you. When choosing recipes, you can use the feature for specific dietary plans and use the feature to include or exclude specific foods so that the recipes in your meal plan do not include those items. You can also modify the servings of any recipe. For the meal planner, you indicate what days and meals per day you want to be included with your personalized meal plan and then the system puts it all together. You will also have a grocery list that is generated specifically for your meal plan.
- You can have someone like me put together meal plans for you. You will pay more, yet it will take even more time and effort off your hands than a subscription plan such as the above.
I hope things are really starting to come together for you. Things do get easier to remember, easier to do, and more routine as you do them consistently. Again, this is about making meal planning and batch cooking a part of your lifestyle. Not an afterthought. You are creating a new wonderful healthy habit and choosing to make a fantastic investment in your health. The next article, Part 4 of this series, will include the fourth fundamental, “Grocery List and Shopping.”
To YOU Being Confidently Healthy and Living a Joy Filled Life!