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March 11, 2018: Meal Planning

My new weekly Get Your Stuff Together Sunday email series will give you one actionable thing to do for the week that will make you life a little easier.

{Did you miss last week’s GYSTS email? No prob! Go here and scroll to the bottom for a complete archive of all GYSTS emails}

Last week, we gathered recipes. This week, we’re talking about meal planning and using those recipes you found.

What is Meal Planning?

Meal planning is the plan you make before you shop. There are no rules for how to do this. Some people like to plan multiple weeks or a month in advance. They may have a cooking blitz and freeze meals. Other people (like me) are looser with meal planning and just sketch out what the week will look like for all food, from breakfast through bedtime snack. The goal with any method is to make life easier by knowing what you’re having before you’re hangry and ready to eat anything that crosses your path.

Professionals, stay-at-home moms, students - we all know that ain’t nobody got time for the planning, shopping, and cooking that goes into each meal. Especially when you come home at dinnertime tired and uninspired. Take comfort in the fact that meal planning is just a plan. It’s not inflexible (unless you want it to be). A friend calls for an impromptu lunch? No problem! Hate cooking? Also no problem. You can plan for pre-made and restaurant meals. Cooking for one? This is even more of a reason to plan, since you’ll waste less food.

You may have seen health fanatics posting photos on social media of their perfect meal containers spread out for the week. That’s only one direction to take meal planning and prepping in, and I don’t suggest going hard like that in the beginning. For this week, I’d like you to focus on planning ahead rather than planning and prepping every last bite.

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(I’m not even close to doing this. You don’t have to be either.)

Speeding up the Meal Planning Process

Step 1: Planning to Plan.

Last week, you gathered interesting recipes (see the GYSTS email archive if you missed it ). Keep a repository of recipes saved for planning. Make sure to add any necessary notes after you make that or remove the ones you didn't like.

Step 2: Recipe Selection and Planning

Pick a few recipes that you’ll make for the week. Consider their ability to feed you for a few days with leftovers or if you want to freeze them. Map your plan out for the week and look for gaps in your food. Don’t forget snacks! You can use my simple meal planning temple to get yourself organized. Click here to get it. Make a copy so you can edit it.

Step 3: Shopping List/Shopping

Look through each recipe your selected and put the ingredients on your shopping list. Don’t forget to see what you already have! Next, add the additional items you’ll be buying on this trip, like snacks, grab-and-go breakfast items, and drinks.

When making your lists in the first few rounds of planning, make sure you have cooking staples and things that tend to be used in the recipes you like. For example, I always have olive oil, cans of beans, cans of tomatoes, butter, and broth. Your staples depend on what you enjoy making and eating. Take a look at this blog post I wrote on getting your kitchen in order. The Food Network has a great list of staples to consider.

Pro tip: I’m an organization nut, so I like to order my shopping list by my path around the store. You can do a lighter version of this and organize your list by item type, like produce, bakery, frozen.

Choose your grocery shopping day wisely. Our Wegmans is a madhouse on Sunday, so that’s a no-go for me. Try to make this painless. Here’s a post I wrote about making your grocery shopping easier that might help you.

I am also a big fan of grocery delivery services. We use Giant’s Peapodservice for the big grocery trips instead of going in person. Instacart and Amazon Fresh are also good options. The cost of delivery is minimal when you consider the time savings, so do check into it.

Step 4: Get Cooking

Depending on the number of meals, your fridge space, and cooking time tolerance, you may make one or all meals ahead of time. Again, there’s no right or wrong way to do this.

I like to prep food as soon as I get back from the store. I wash and cut produce and prep anything I can ahead of time. I like to cook enough food to last around 3-4 days of lunches and dinners. I’ll also pack up my snacks - nuts, fruit, vegetables, yogurt, protein bars, depending on the week.

The freezer might be your best friend. Think about how much you’re cooking for the week and make sure you aren’t cooking so much that it will go bad. I tend to freeze half of my batches of soups and chilis because they get boring quickly but they are easy to thaw and eat.

Meal planning will set you up to stay with your healthy eating goals, and it can also save tons of time, energy, stress, and money.

Next Sunday, we’ll talk about time management and how you can save your sanity with a few tricks during the week.

Do you have a friend who could stand to G(her)ST? Feel free to forward this!

I hope you have a wonderful week,



Kelly Morgan, Ph.D.

Tsirona -