As a Registered Dietitian, one of my career goals is to show people that eating healthfully for life doesn’t have to be confusing, complicated, or more expensive. We are all busy. Busy working demanding jobs, busy taking care of families, busy logging miles. One of the most common problems clients present me with is that there is just no time to eat healthy. My response to this plea is always meal planning. Meal planning is the secret to success no matter what your life situation. The meal planning process may take some time at first, but once you have a system in place, you will be saving money, eating healthier, and have more free time to spend on the trails and with your family.
Here are my top 5 meal planning tips:
- Have a meal preparation ritual.
- Commit to a time of the week where you can sit down without distractions and plan meals. Assess your weekly routine; which days will you be home late? Which night are you especially tired? What evening do you have extra time and everyone in the family is home? Don’t get overwhelmed by planning too much at one time; start with 4 or 5 days at a time.
- Keep a running grocery list.
- Make a grocery list of items that you need from the store and keep it in a convenient place that you will see often like the refrigerator door, not crumpled in a ball at the bottom of your gym bag. I like to keep a grocery list in a note in my iPhone that is labeled “Bananas” (because I always need bananas). Plus, my phone is always with me so I can easily add to my list whenever I think of something or delete what I have already purchased. Another useful tool is a home smart-assistant like the Alexa from Amazon or Google Home. Just tell these eerily smart devices what you need and they will keep tabs for you.
- Be flexible, not fancy.
- This is real life and sometimes all life has time for is Easy Mac, and that’s okay! Regardless of what your Instagram feed tells you, nobody is perfect, nor should we strive to be. Instead, focus on what you can do to be just a little bit better in every situation.
- Save money by using store coupons and taking advantage of sale items.
- Sign up for store reward cards that send personalized coupons through the mail. Download mobile apps to see what is on sale at your favorite grocer. Use these tools for inspiration when planning your next meal while simultaneously saving money.
- Keep a well-stocked pantry and freezer.
- There are many nights when I come home from work or an evening run and am just too tired and cranky to go to the store to get one or two items for dinner. This is when a well-stocked kitchen really saves the day. Having a pantry with whole grain pastas, rice, quinoa, canned beans and seafood and a freezer loaded with fruits, vegetables, and bean burgers allows you to put together a complete and balanced me with minimal time and effort.
Call for comments:
Do you have a meal preparation ritual?
What tools do you use to help you plan meals?
What are your best meal planning tips and tricks?