Stress-Free Meal Planning

If you are committed to eating healthy, like we are here at the Stuart house, then cooking meals is a must. I'll be the first to admit that this can be challenging for our busy family. In fact, I can think of a breaking point where cooking dinner every night had me on the verge of tears (yep, I can get a bit emotional sometimes). Cooking had became incredibly stressful to me because I stopped following a plan... and a coach should know better, right?! Well once I realized my problem, I started following my own simple meal planning steps, and the cooking stress level dropped significantly!

Planning allows you to eat out less, avoid processed unhealthy, "quick" foods, waste less food and save money. So grab your old school calendar or a sheet of paper and start writing. The simple act of writing things down will hold you accountable! The first thing you will do is schedule days/times for these tasks:

  1. Meal Planning + fridge/freezer/pantry review

  2. Shopping

  3. Food Prep

Planning: I like to do my planning near the end of the week. That gives me some time to change my mind! Start by jotting down a tentative meal schedule, noting any really busy or special days/events. Do a quick scan of your pantry, fridge and freezer to see if what you already have can be used. After you've decided your meals, make your shopping list.

Shopping: Schedule a day to do your shopping for the week. Making several quick trips to the store each week is such a waste of time and you inevitably end up with impulse items. So, put the time into your planning so you can get everything you need in one trip - and then stick to your list!

Food Prep: Again, plan a day for meal prep on your calendar. For me, this is typically Sunday. Prep for several different meals at one time. For example, I might cook and shred enough chicken and slice enough onion and peppers to be used in my Salsa Verde Chicken Chili and Black Pepper Chicken & Rice. Cook your rice, quinoa or beans ahead of time and keep them in a labeled container in the fridge. Prep your snacks too, boil eggs, slice veggies, clean fruit, etc. You can take this food prep to the extreme and MAKE all the meals for the week. Every thing you do on prep day, is money in the bank the next week, so don't skimp here. You'll thank yourself!

That's your process. Plan, shop, prep, repeat! Within that process there's lots of tips and tricks to make it even easier. Here's a few of my favorites!

  • Make a theme night! Fun for the fam + makes planning simple! Taco Tuesday, Fish Friday, Meatless Monday

  • Use tools like the Instant pot, air fryer, freezer meals, etc. to save time

  • Keep a list of your favorite go-to recipes organized and easily accessible

  • Don't feel like you have to make everything 100% from scratch in order to eat clean

  • Make extra to freeze and/or have leftovers for lunch or {gasp} breakfast

  • Sign up for email updates from clean eating bloggers and chefs - inspo right in your inbox!

  • Keep ongoing lists of your staples that get used, so you know what to pick up.

  • Use shopping lists or online shopping services to keep shopping trips and impulse buying to a minimum!

  • Keep a meal journal. Accountability + it gives you something to look back on for ideas

  • Fresh is great, but prep takes time! Look for pre-cut veg or flash frozen veggies instead

  • Keep your pantry stocked doomsday style. Everything is easier when you have all the ingredients.

What did I miss? What keeps you motivated, inspired, and on track with cooking healthy?

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