Meal planning is one of those things that you either love or hate. I kind of hate it. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of benefits, but when I think of a meal plan, I can’t help but feel restricted to eating what’s planned, versus what I feel like eating. If this resonates with you, I’m about to give you some meal planning tips to help you overcome that.
Meal planning is one of those things that simplifies our lives and can help save money at the same time! It’s a win-win!
I’ll acknowledge here that it takes a certain amount of privilege to have a choice in what you want to eat. It’s even a privilege to have enough food to plan your meals ahead.
When we’re on a really tight budget or in debt up to our eyeballs, it might only be possible to put food on the table to fill our bellies. If this is you, keep doing the best you can and work towards a future where you have more options. Some of these minimalist meal planning tips may still help you get ahead, so take what applies to you and try it.
Minimalist Meal Planning Tips for People Who Hate Meal Planning
Buy a Pre-Made Meal Plan
Try a meal planning service like $5 meal plan. I haven’t tried it myself, but I’ve heard good things! Buying a pre-made meal plan has the benefit of eliminating any planning efforts on your part. The downside is that it’s pretty generic and may not suit how you like to eat. Also you’re paying money for something you could do yourself.
Try a Meal Prep Service
Meal prep services are like groceries in a box, that are just the right amount of each ingredient for the recipe. They tend to be pricy, so I’d only recommend them if you have a bigger budget. It could also be a good transition if you’re really struggling to cut down on eating out.
We tried GoodFood when I got a coupon for 3 free meals. We did enjoy the meals and felt there was more than enough food. We actually got 5 meals for 2 people (10 meals total) out of our box, as there was leftover rice and veggies to make a salad and a fried rice.
I wouldn’t rely on a meal prep service though, because as I mentioned, they tend to be quite pricy (starting at at least $10 per person per meal). We also found there was A LOT of plastic packaging, which we weren’t happy with.
Create Your Own Meal Plan
- Make a note of which days of the week you are super pressed for time, and which days you have at least 30 minutes to prepare a meal
- Make a list of meals you and your family like. Aim for 20-30 different meals, so you can plan for the month without too much repetition. Keep your list handy.
- Separate the list into quick meals that take 30 minutes or less to make, and ones that take more time to make.
- Match the quick meals with busy nights, and plan to make the other meals on nights when you have more time.
- Write down each meal you plan on making, and the list of groceries you need for the week. You can use my template as an example.
Now you can either have a rigid meal plan, where each week is planned out in advance, or you can have a flexible one, where you have the ingredients to make a variety of meals, but you don’t have to have a specific meal on a specific day.
If you’re like me, you might not like the thought of having each meal scheduled out. It just seems too rigid and doesn’t allow me to eat what I feel like eating in the moment.
If this is you, try intuitive meal planning. Intuitive meal planning is a way to facilitate intuitive eating which includes listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, and honouring your cravings for certain foods. The whole point is that your body knows what’s best.
A rigid meal plan can interfere with intuitive eating because you’d be following the external cues of what’s for dinner tonight, instead of internal cues.
Obviously relying 100% on intuition and never planning ahead can also have drawbacks. It’s key to find balance!
Other Meal Planning Tips
- Make at least one big batch meal each week. Eat some the day it’s made, then freeze enough for at least one other meal. Soups, stews, chili and curry are perfect options. Reheat for a super quick meal on a busy night.
- Keep your pantry and freezer stocked with staples so you can easily throw together a decent meal if your plan goes out the window.
- Prep some foods when you get home from the grocery store. Chop some vegetables, soak some beans, and marinate some meat before you even put it away. I like to take a package of chicken pieces and divide it into 2 or more bags. Each one gets a different marinade, then is frozen. Take it out of the freezer and leave in the fridge overnight and it should be thawed by the time supper is ready to be cooked the next day.
- Include recipes with similar ingredients, like cilantro, within the same week so special ingredients like that don’t go to waste after being used for only one meal.
- Incorporate a few new meals to keep from getting bored. Don’t get too ambitious and try a new recipe every day or you risk feeling overwhelmed and resorting to takeout! If you LOVE trying new recipes, then by all means, go ahead, but be willing to be flexible if you’re just not up to it.
Whether you prefer to purchase a pre-made meal plan, create your own meal plan, or would rather try intuitive meal planning, I think you’ll definitely benefit from these meal planning tips. Avoid last minute takeout, or cereal for supper (again!) by planning ahead, even just a little bit.