If you’re interested in health and wellness, there’s a good chance that you’ve been hearing more and more about the benefits of meal planning.
Not only does meal planning help you reach your health and wellness goals, but it can also reduce how much you spend on food. That’s because one of the primary goals of meal planning is calculating how much food you need before you go shopping again, which helps you cut down on last minute food purchases.
If you’ve been shying away from meal planning, it could be due to three myths that can block your way to good health.
#1. Meal planning is confusing and tedious.
For too many people, the very words “meal planning” brings a shudder. They think of it as confusing and tedious, more like doing the laundry than anything fun.
This is a big myth. Once you get started, meal planning will quickly become a pleasant part of your weekly routine. But how do you get started?
First things first: Choose a time that works for you, and schedule meal planning on your calendar. Many people like to kick off the planning on Friday, shop for groceries on Saturday, and spend Sunday afternoon or evening relaxing and prepping the dishes for the week ahead.
During the planning phase, if you find yourself getting overwhelmed by randomly choosing meals, try choosing themes for each day instead: Fish Friday. Taco Tuesday. Salad night. One-bowl-meal night. Even omelet week—whatever works for you. This strategy will help you make decisions.
Once you’ve assigned a time for meal planning, stick to that time every week. Sit down in your favorite place and create some rituals around the task. Light a candle, drink a cup of tea, listen to jazz, etc.
By making this an enjoyable experience, it will feel more like a pre-celebration of the food you’ll be eating rather than something to dread.
#2. Meal planning means you have to plan three meals per day, seven days per week.
There’s no one-size-fits-all way to go about meal planning. The plan you make should be tailored to you and your lifestyle, and only you know how many meals you realistically need to prepare.
Perhaps you always eat lunch at work one day a week, or every other Tuesday you meet the girls for dinner, or you have breakfast meetings. Meal planning is different for every person and every lifestyle. The truth is that most of us don’t need to meticulously plot out twenty-one meals per week. This an unsuitable standard and a myth that unfortunately impedes many from beginning.
Instead, start small! Begin by planning two or three meals a week. After a month or so, check in with yourself to see how it feels to have had some of the week’s meals mapped out. At this point, you’ll be able to tell whether you want to increase the frequency—and you probably will!—or merely sustain a couple of planned out feasts a week.
#3. You always need to eat something creative and different.
Just because you’re putting extra effort into planning out your meals doesn’t mean that they need to be more extravagant than usual. In fact, meal planning isn’t a way for you to eat whatever you want to eat. Rather, it’s a way to organize what you need to eat.
It’s not about researching new recipes and then going out and buying all the ingredients to make something extravagant each day. It’s about looking at what you already have in your pantry and fridge and figuring out how to use them before they go to waste. It’s about using up that kale before it goes bad. It’s about remembering to defrost the meat in your freezer. It’s about mastering how to use the leftovers from Tuesday’s dinner in Wednesday’s lunch.
In other words, meal planning is a way to make your life simpler.
One way to maintain a meal plan is to start it off simple on a Monday. On the first day of a new week, make a dish you can do with your eyes closed or one that you know you can whip up without too much stress. If you start the week off right, you’re less likely to overwhelm yourself and more likely to succeed and stick to your plans throughout the remainder of the week.
Have you ever tried meal planning? What did you like about it? What did you find challenging? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below!
Image from iStock/Batareykin.