Being organized and adaptable at meal time does not need to be mutually exclusive. Make your weekdays predictably easy at the dinner table with these helpful tips in mind.
We all know meal planning is helpful for the day-to-day. However, for those who are trying to remove the rigid structures of dieting to eat more intuitively, meal planning may seem like a contradiction. However, it is in fact possible to meal plan, as long as it’s done in a flexible way that allows for change and variety.
If you are in a place where you are giving yourself permission in your food choices, meal planning is actually a super helpful tool. It encourages wise spending and helps you get organized as you prepare for your week. It can be especially helpful for those with families and small children to feed, daily life commitments to consider, and tight budgets. Loosely planning out a few meals for the week can actually help keep all of those priorities in mind without becoming too rigid.
Here are a few tips to consider when you’re planning out the week in a flexible way.
1. Consider only planning ~3 dinner meals per week.
Go to the grocery store with a plan to buy ingredients for about 3 planned dinner meals that you want to incorporate throughout your week. This leaves room for other meals and nights out with friends. You have the opportunity to try something new with these dinner meals, or stick with old favorites! Remember, you don’t always have to have something new and “Pinterest worthy” – your favorite lasagna or mac and cheese recipe is just fine!
2. Plan to make extras for leftovers.
Consider doubling or tripling the recipe you’re working with so you can have some extra to use for lunches or dinner the next day. This can make lunches and dinner decisions much simpler.
3. Try rotating breakfast and lunches.
Try incorporating a variety into your meals by rotating options for breakfast and lunch. For example, have oatmeal for breakfast one day, and cereal, eggs, or toast on the others. Similarly with lunch, rotate between leftovers, a sandwich, or a salad with a variety of sides.
4. Allow the days and meal choices to change.
Sometimes things come up during the week, so building in flexibility is key. Just acknowledge there are some weeknights where you just don’t want to cook (hello Friday!). When that happens, simply adjust and save one of your 3 planned dinner meals for another night.
5. Make a grocery list, but leave room for changes and fun foods.
Making a list is helpful so you don’t forget what you need. Figure out what you definitely need and leave room for swaps and changes once you get to the store. Don’t forget to plan on some fun foods, like ice cream or cookie dough!
6. Compile a list of your favorite and go-to meals.
Compile your favorite meals and recipes in one place so you can easily browse your options. Whether it’s on your Pinterest board or just a note on your computer, make sure it’s easily accessible for you to come back to. Keeping your favorites handy can help you avoid falling into a black hole searching for recipes and over-thinking your options.
7. Have some staples and convenience foods on hand at home.
Continually restock your pantry and freezer with items you can use to quickly whip something together when you don’t feel like cooking. Keep frozen pizzas, veggie mixes, frozen burritos, waffles, eggs, potatoes, and bread on hand for easy meals or snacks.
Stay open-minded during the week, and you’ll eat with less stress in no time.
Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: CHIARA CONTI
Hannah Griffith, RDN is a Registered Dietitian based in Charlottesville, Virginia. She is passionate about helping both men and women discover real health, by learning to nourish themselves and cultivate a better a better relationship with food and their bodies. Read more from Hannah at All In Good Health.