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The 5 Step Meal Planning Framework

how to meal planning meal prep Aug 25, 2018

Healthy Eating Starts with a Plan

Healthy eating can seem like a daily battle when you have no idea what to eat, aren’t stocked with health supporting foods (grab my guide here) and don’t have the energy to prep something after a long day at work.

Instead of setting yourself up for failure, why not set yourself up for success? It all starts with your weekly meal plan and prep. And once you get in the groove, you can easily streamline the process and settle into better health, as a result of your fruitful labor.

So what should you do to ensure you eat healthy all week long? 

Follow this 5 step framework for healthy eating success all week long.  

The 5 Step Process to Healthy Eating Success

Step #1: Schedule a Recipe Inspiration Session (on your couch with a glass of natural wine)

It's quite easy to get stuck in a rut, about what to eat, each week. So why not get inspired, by setting aside some time to browse your favorite cookbooks, trusted online blogs, Pinterest boards and/or Instagram feeds, or even sitting down to watch a cooking show. 

IMPORTANT: I recommend perusing recipes on a different day than when you do the actual meal planning in step two. This prevents overwhelm and we all know how easy it is to get sucked into the internet black hole. It's important to keep this process fun and easy. It's also a nice activity to do at the end of the week to decompress and focus on some self care.

TAKE ACTION: Grab your favorite cup of tea or natural wine, your choice of technology (iPad, computer, phone) and/or some good old fashioned books. Then, let the healthy inspiration flow.  

**Pro Tip: Set aside some time to do a recipe dump of your own recipes you love to make! This will give you a plethora of easy ideas you can pull from, so you're not *only* using new, unfamiliar recipes each week, which can be overwhelming. 

How to do a recipe dump: It's easy to do --- grab a sheet of paper (I like writing but you can also type), set up different headings for meals on the page (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, dessert), set a timer for 10 minutes and then jot down (off the top of your head) as many meals as you can, that you like and can cook easily (these will mostly be recipes you don't need a recipe for). You can add to this list over time!

Step #2: Create a Healthy Meal Plan for the Week (or month)

In this step, you'll go back to the recipes you saved during the recipe inspiration session and/or from your recipe dump. Then you'll begin plugging them into a meal plan template.

You have a few options for meal plan templates:

  1. Grab a piece of paper, make a grid and plot out your meals
  2. Download my free meal plan template (make a copy, please do not request access) 
  3. Use a meal planning website (I LOVE this one) to plot out all of your meals 
  4. OR get weekly meal plans sent to you as a member of The Healthy Curator

Don't forget to note any days you will not be eating at home. By doing this you will save money at the grocery store and won’t be left with any food waste at the end of the week.

**Recipe enthusiasts beware: Remember to keep your meals for the week manageable. As a rule of thumb, choose only two to three new recipes to create each week. This will allow you to stay on track with your meal plan, especially when you have a busy week and are just too tired to spend time in the kitchen. 

**Pro Tip (save time & money): Make an extra serving at dinner that you can set aside and enjoy the next day for lunch. You could even put a different spin on things and repurpose your leftovers for the next day. For example, if you made an asian stir fry for dinner, you could take the veggies and turn it into a ramen bowl with some extra ingredients. This not only saves time prepping your lunches for each day, but when you are plotting your meals on your meal plan, it streamlines things even more.

Step #3: Make a Shopping List Before You Go!

During this step, you will list out all ingredients you will need, for all the recipes, in your meal plan. I like to do this immediately following the creation of my meal plan. Then do a quick sweep through your kitchen cupboards and spice cabinets, crossing off any ingredients you already have.

This will also help you save time and money at the food store. Plus, it will reduce the amount of food waste for the week. 

You have a few options for meal plan templates:

  1. Grab a piece of paper and do it by hand
  2. Download my free shopping list template (make a copy, please do not request access) 
  3. Create one fast by using one of my favorite meal planning websites
  4. OR get a shopping list sent to you as a member of The Healthy Curator

**Pro Tip: Making your shopping list can be the most time consuming part of meal planning, especially if you do it right and list out every ingredient needed. But if you spend the time doing this, you can save and recycle your meal plans in the future. 

Step #4: Implement Meal Prepping 

Who wants to be de-stemming Kale or chopping carrots after a busy day at work? Set aside time to prep your food immediately when you return from the food store or market. This means washing, drying, chopping and storing all produce properly. It could also mean soaking any nuts, seeds, grains, or legumes in preparation for use. You don’t want to skip this step as it is the key to success during your busy week ahead.

You can also make a produce prep plan for the week of what needs to be completed and when. I find it helpful to cut, chop, and store my produce in it's simplest form for the week ahead and I typically do this on Sundays. It takes no more than an hour.

In addition, you may also want to set "don't forget" reminders for things you might need to defrost, so you are always ready for your meals. You can do this digitally on google calendar and get reminders sent to your phone. 

Both "produce prep plans" and "don't forget plans" are provided for members of The Healthy Curator each week. 

**Pro Tip: Before you leave for the food store, fill your sink up with water, white vinegar and a few drops of lemon essential oil. This way when you arrive home, meal prep is automatic. In addition, always block off an hour or two for meal prep after your market trip.

Step #5: Post Your Healthy Meal Plan for Easy Reference

Finally, be sure to post your meal plan where you can reference it all week long, whether somewhere in your kitchen, in an app on your phone or on a calendar. Not only will this remind you what's for dinner each night, but you will reduce your food waste, as it ensures you use of all the ingredients you purchased for the plan. 

**Pro Tip: If you like to get creative, purchase a chalkboard that you can write on and display. Or grab some chalkboard paint and paint the front of your cupboard door or cabinet for another creative display. You could even get a glass picture frame, place a template behind the glass and use dry erase markers to write out each week’s meal plan.

And that's a wrap! My 5 step process for eating healthy all week long. I hope you found some healthy inspiration.

And before you go, how about a free 5 day meal plan (shopping list included!)? Grab your free 5 day dinner meal plan (make a copy, please do not request access) .

DO TELL...What's the biggest challenge you find with meal planning each week? Share below. 

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