Are you finally tired of being exhausted and annoyed with wondering what the heck you are going to eat today or any day? I’m going to share some secrets with you today that will hopefully make all of the difference in the world going forward. But, guess what? It takes a little bit of work on the front end.

Nourishing your body with foods that help you thrive is an epic self-care move. It is a mega foundational element for helping you feel NOURISHED, which is your goal, right? I hope so. Since I know you know this already, I’m going to spare you the lecture. Just know this . . . the single biggest impact you can make on what you put into your body to fuel it is meal planning. I know it’s not sexy or fun for most people, but it is ABSOLUTELY necessary. Planning eases stress and actually creates more time and freedom in your life. Total bonus. It also solves the mind-numbing and continuous question of “What’s for dinner?” Wouldn’t it be nice to have a calendar of meals posted on the fridge so when anyone in your family is tempted to ask that question, you can point to the calendar and say, “there’s the plan Stan”?

Meal planning efforts are helpful, no matter how you plan to eat—whether you are cooking for yourself, cooking for the family, eating out, picking up healthy prepared food, using a meal preparation and delivery service, or packing food to take on the go. Having a plan will honor your personal nourishment desires and convert them into actionable habits. It helps you take ownership and not fall into excuse mode. And ultimately, it is the secret to minding the gap between the way you want to eat and what you are doing now.

HERE’S HOW TO DO MEAL PLANNING THE EASY WAY!

Get everyone who eats food in your household involved in the process of planning, which would be everyone. You can certainly share the responsibility of leading the planning efforts, too. You don’t always have to do it on your own, unless you are like me and you actually enjoy the planning process. Get out a blank weekly calendar to start the process. OR, grab your FREE Meal Planning toolkit I created for you at the end of this article! Easy peasy.

PREP STEP. Grab your personal and work calendars so you can reference them. Then, somewhere on the blank weekly calendar, note the dates of the week you are planning for. We’ll focus here on dinner meals, since that is generally the most troublesome for people, but you can apply the same planning principles to other meals (and snacks) too.

STEP 1. The first thing to note on your blank meal-planning calendar is any days of the week that you will not be eating at home. Make a note about where you will be and how you will handle your meal for that night, so you can pre-think through how you will honor your healthy eating objectives in that circumstance. If it’s a business meeting and you know there won’t be healthy eating options available, perhaps you will want to grab a salad and eat ahead of time or bring it to the meeting. If you are going out to dinner, check out the restaurant menu online ahead of time, so you will be prepared for things you can order that help you meet your goals. If you are going to someone else’s house to eat, you might offer to bring a dish or snack, so you know you’ll have “something” healthful to eat. Allow yourself to enjoy the gifts (in the form of food) that they will be sharing with you, too. This is not about perfect eating, because that doesn’t really exist. It’s about conscious eating.

STEP 2. The second thing you’ll want to note on your blank weekly calendar is days of the week that you will be eating at home, what you will eat, and how that meal will get to the table. Will you pick up something on the way home? Will you be using a meal preparation and delivery service and have the meals already stored in the fridge? Will you be making a home-cooked meal? Or perhaps your private chef will be preparing a delicious meal for you. It’s possible, you know! If you are planning to prepare a home-cooked meal, do you already know what you want to cook or do you need some inspiration? If you are cooking at home, hats off to you. I truly believe that home cooking is one of the greatest forms of self-care and self-love.

  • If you need some menu inspiration, try starting with personal and family favorites. If you need something more, tap into the vast resources of recipe inspiration available online, in smart device apps, magazines at the checkout stand, or cookbooks. There is no shortage of recipe ideas for any little thing you might want to try. The public library is a great resource for cookbooks as well. I suggest copying all recipes that you want to try (or tearing them out of magazines) and starting a “recipe inspiration” folder that you can access when it comes time to plan. In that way, there are always fresh ideas waiting for you.

STEP 3. Grocery store planning is next. For time efficiency, I recommend structuring your week around going to the grocery store as little as humanly possible. If you do it right, you might be able to get away with once per week. How does that sound? I also recommend that you do not shop on the same day that you do the meal planning. Schedule that to be on a separate day and assign it to another person in your household, if that’s at all possible. If you can, spread the responsibility around to help everyone get involved in getting food on the table and to free up time for you to focus on other self-care activities. Keep a rolling list of items needed from the grocery store somewhere in the kitchen, where you and anyone else in your household can make notes on the list. Then, as you plan meals for the week and you know which recipes you want to prepare, add those ingredients to your rolling list. In that way, the list is ready for whoever is going to the store. You can grab my favorite blank grocery shopping list in the Meal Planning Toolkit I created for you (below). It is the one I have personally used for years, even when I was grocery shopping as part of my profession.

As a final thought, if you want to be extremely time efficient with any meals that you are preparing at home, you can pre-cook them all in a few hours one day of the week, then store them in the fridge and re-heat when you’re ready to eat. Of course, you can always prepare them on the night you will eat them. The choice is yours. 

Here is an overview of the process we just discussed, because I know I threw a lot at you:

When will you plan? Set aside a couple of hours each week to plan out your meals for the entire week. Then, actually block that time on your calendar. I suggest making it the same time block each week. I like to do this on Friday afternoons. That seems to fit best for me, since I am the one who does all of the meal planning in our home. While I’ve handed over other parts of the process of getting food on the table to other members of my family, I still own the planning piece, and for now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. You can plan for more than one week at a time when you get the process down, but if you are just starting the planning thing, go for one week at a time.

Pick a day to do the grocery shopping for the week: Who’s going shopping and on what day? Is the list ready to go?

Cooking for the week. If you plan to make any home-cooked meals for that week, consider cooking them all in a few hours one day per week. Many people choose Sundays for this task. Then, you will be prepared for the week with pre-made meals that you can pull out when you are ready to nosh. I recommend that you don’t grocery shop and cook on the same day. It can feel like too much to do it all in one day. Spread the love and make it manageable. Decide what feels best for you and go!

Other genius timesaving healthy eating tips:

  • Buy in bulk. Buy high quality meats in bulk when they are on sale. Freeze and pull out the meat to thaw 24-48 hours before you need it for cooking a recipe. Also, stocking up on nutritious foods to keep around the house can help remove the temptation to eat mindlessly.
  • Make the most of your leftovers. Plan your meals so leftovers from dinner can be packed and eaten as lunch the next day. Chop up your chicken breast from the night before and add it to an omelet for breakfast or slice it and serve with mixed greens and veggies as a main-dish salad.
  • Eat breakfast for dinner. And vice versa. Get creative. Add chicken, whole grain rice, and vegetables to a breakfast omelet.
  • Order an extra meal. If you are eating out, order an extra meal to take home to eat for lunch or dinner the next day. This is do-it-ahead genius!

As a revolutionary in the art of self-care, Shelley Hunter Hillesheim founded A Nourished Life where she is a self-care coach, published author, inspirational speaker, workshop leader, sisterhood builder and maverick for ambitious, driven women. She rescues depleted high achievers from overwhelm and helps them create the spaciousness and simplicity needed to nourish themselves with sustainable self-care habits.

Learn more about Shelley, her book titled Self-Care 101: A Guide to Nourish & Flourish Team YOU and her programs at www.ANourishedLife.net and www.SelfCare101Book.com.

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