Welcome again to my new series: Back to the Basics!
I’m so happy that you are here! Today we are going to chat about meal planning.
Some people love it while some do hate it. Personally, I love meal planning, but with four small children, I have to keep meals simple.
When you first discover Trim Healthy Mama it seems like you need every special ingredient to follow the plan. It can be discouraging when you are constantly buying new products to make certain recipes.
I’ve been following THM on and off for almost 3 years now. I’ve learned that the “on plan” treats are wonderful and delicious but they shouldn’t be eaten everyday if you have stubborn weight to lose. But they are nice to occasionally have on hand to avoid temptations.
Now before the whole story on Trim Healthy Mama, lets deal on the following topics what meal planning is, its importance, types, meal planning ideas and templates then we move on to thm fuel cycle meal plan.
What is meal planning and why is it important?
Preparing meals comes different for everyone and the benefits can be different according to individuals. But one common ground is that it gives you a straight-ahead plan of what you have to prepare each for the week instead of thinking hard each day.
What is meal planning?
Meal planning is the process of writing down or preparing a time table of the meals you’d intend to prepare for each day of the week, weekly.
A meal plan could be up to 2, 3 or 4 plans you have for each week if you wouldn’t want to eat the same food weekly or you just love a simple variety of options.
It’s a good thing to plan for yourself or your family. It keeps you organized and gives a straight head to think of other things that need to be done at work, at home and with your family.
You can easily incorporate wholesome meals, snack, into your plans. Your plan can include wholesome meals for a night or two, snacks for different days.
But it really doesn’t matter what you plan, a simple meal plan is just okay.
There are plenty reasons I could bring up why meal planning is important for you. I have categorized the importance of meal planning into 5 vis a vis,
- Saving money
- Saving time
- Organized grocery shopping
- Reduce food waste
- Having an organized control over your food choices health wise.
5 importance of meal planning
1. Saving Money
When you start to have an organized meal plan, you find out you are able to tell from the very start how much your budget would be for a week and up to a month and beyond.
When you see what you have on your time table, you can quickly calculate what you have to spend and then see where you can make adjustments and remove what you may not need on your list.
It works every single time for me and my husband. We get to sit down and write every meal plan, sometimes we decide to change what we have and we need to make a new plan.
We find out some foods would be expensive than we can afford and we know ahead what to remove and replace and boom, we save more money.
Another area where meal planning could save money for you is cutting eating out. Oh, yes! Eating in a restaurant, as convenient as it is, it isn’t always so for your pocket.
The same amount of money you would spend eating out, when you make a meal plan, you find out that same money can cover your food expenses longer than you could have spent on eating out.
I have tested this theory, but let me say this worked for me, but then it could work for you too. Here’s a research by Tess Rose Lampert who did a bit of study in this article where she tried to compare prices of chicken dinner against cooking same dinner at home. She discovered one could save as much as 60%.
That tells so much about saving money when you have a meal plan and make your dishes especially as a family.
2. Saving time
This importance of meal planning should have taken the top list. Happens to me to be what I benefit the most from my meal plans.
I love to have time to attend to my kids and family. There’s always a lot to do and getting stuck each day thinking what to cook can be overwhelming. I think you would agree with me on this.
When you start to plan your meals, you would discover that certain meal that could take your time more and prepare the necessities that could help. Those include having some helpful kitchen gadgets, and choosing the best day and time to prepare such meals.
A way to plan this will be to pick your busy days of the week, have simple meals fixed on such days and have the other meals on les busy days.
More so, having a meal plan helps you to know what foods you are to prepare ahead of time. In fact, this is the basis of a food time table.
You just go to your wall or wherever you may keep your plan, look what you have next to cook and just get at it without having to rack up your head. Yeah, this is the best part for me.
So you see, you still save time this way.
3. Organized Grocery Shopping
This could have come under saving time but it is worth having its own subheading being how detailed it can get.
Going grocery shopping is one aspect of been a mom you really can’t avoid. And when you think of the time you have to spend with your kids and family, you wouldn’t want to be far away so long from them.
When you make a meal plan, you also know what you would be needing ahead for whatever meal you have planned for a day. That way, you also have a list of what you need to get at the grocery store.
This way you reduce frequent or unnecessary grocery store trips, and when you are out shopping, you reduce wandering about in a store because you already have your list made out.
4. Reducing Food Wastage
When you prepare a meal, you didn’t plan you may end up wasting the food because it may either be what you, your kids or husband don’t like or is not willing to eat at that time.
Food wastage is not something to be encouraged. Food wastage is a pollution to the environment. At the same time, there are those who don’t have and here you are wanting to waste a meal.
On the other hand, meal planning helps you to manage planned leftovers. Depending if you like leftovers or not, you can know what quantity of a food to cook at a time and what to do with a leftover.
Making these decisions early helps saves you time as well
5. Having an organized control over your food choices health wise.
You may be concerned about dieting, calorie intake, weight watching, fitness goals and more.
Having a meal plan helps you keep an organized control over your choice of food when you know the nutrition facts of the foods you include in your plan.
You get to know the type and quality of food you are to include in your plan, the dietary information of food labels, and also adjust accordingly where needed.
Instead of hopping at anything that may be available, you can now plan accordingly ahead of time.
More on the importance of meal planning as regards your food control, you get to plan the right amount of a type of food that is ideal for you and your family, you stay accountable to the types of food you must have consumed and more importantly, you help your family to lead a healthy life in terms of food consumption.
How I Plan Meals
We spend a lot of our time at home so it’s crucial that I have a plan for feeding my growing children. To keep things simple, I stick to a weekly meal schedule. Here’s what the kids’ breakfast schedule looks like:
- Sun- cereal and smoothie
- Mon- oatmeal
- Tues- eggs
- Wed- yogurt parfaits (prepared the night before)
- Thurs- cereal and smoothie
- Fri- cinnamon toast or baked treat (banana bread, baked oatmeal, breakfast cookies, etc)
- Sat- pancakes
I try to eat what the kids are eating (but THM friendly). For example, on Saturday when I make my family pancakes, I always try to have some THM pancakes in the freezer that I just need to heat up for myself.
On days that my kids eat something I don’t eat (like cereal), I will either have eggs or a protein shake.
For lunch, I usually do eat something completely different from my kids. Lunch is usually my biggest meal because it’s the one meal that I can take the time to prepare and eat in peace because the children are napping. We all have different schedules and ways of doing this, but just find what works for you.
For Dinner, I try to fix the same meal for everyone. My kids are not always fans of this but they must try everything on their plate’s. To keep it super simple, I try to pick a protein and a veggie. If it’s an E meal then I add a starch. Every now and then, I will make some chili or soup.
Types of meal planning
Understanding the importance of meal planning helps you now make that decision to begin your own journey in having a meal plan also.
There’s really no fixed way to how to make a meal plan. Even with the types of meal plans that I am about to give to you, you can also be flexible in making any other type or making some changes or adjustment to suit you.
More like, think outside of the box. You can be creative; the options are endless.
Anyway, I’ll introduce you to 3 types of meal planning. With time this article may be updated to future more types.
Basic Meal Planning – Meal Planning Type #1
Without breaking a sweat, this is just the idea of meal planning you already had reading this article from the beginning.
That simple idea of a type of meal planning you could have drafted out yourself is just it, as simple as that.
This type of meal planning involves you making a time table according to your schedule and choice of food, making a list of ingredients you will need for each food each day, planning when you’ll go grocery shopping to get your food items and ingredients and keeping to your time schedule of cooking what you already planned according to your meal plan.
Any additional might be any tweak you may want to include or exclude, But you already have a map of a guide to help me through the week or month depending on your plan.
Meal Prepping / Batch Cooking – Meal Planning Type #2
This is a little advanced of the basic meal planning we have above, well with just a little trick and may be for more convenience depending on what you feel might work best for you.
This type of meal planning as the name already implies, means you have to cook a bigger portion of food at once that may take you and your family longer days without having to cook again in between.
This might just take a little more of your time at the go but should save you more on the long run.
Remember when we talked about you knowing your schedule or rather busy days of the week and cooking lighter meals on such days and longer meals on your less busy days? Exactly, that’s just what this type of meal planning can help you with.
All you need is your basic meal plan first, and then the decision of a day to pick for the batch cooking. A spare 2 hours might be all you need.
And then the following days, say up to 3 or less or more, you only warm up the quantity you need at a time and return the rest to the fridge.
Leftover Hacks – Meal Planning Type #3
Remember managing leftovers, a part we just discussed about the importance of meal planning? Yeah, it applies here again as a type of meal planning.
The idea is to make a big pot of a recipe as the main dish, more like a big batch cooking. And then you convert them to different other meals over the next few days as you may need.
Meal planning ideas
Next you may need now are ideas of a meal plan.
Depending on your home you may already be looking for meal planning ideas for families or for one or two.
Here, I’ll try to cover a 7-day family meal plan that can be helpful for you and also give some weekly planning ideas from a bunch I have tried out in my home.
Meal planning ideas for families will include a simple hack to cook healthier meals for your family, saving money and time.
Meal planning templates
As you are about taking that step in beginning your meal plan, you may need some meal planning templates ideas to pick from to help you get started.
Here are some free printable meal planning templates with grocery list that can be helpful.
This weekly meal planner is helpful even if you are a beginner. You have a list to pick from and they include grocery list column. Any of the template can help you create a meal plan.
My THM fuel cycle meal plan (fuel cycle plan)
Recently, my weight loss stalled after having my fourth child and I’m currently doing a Fuel Cycle. You can read about what a Fuel Cycle is on page 429 of the old book and my 80 Days of Trim Healthy Mama Challenge.
So, I wanted to share with you what I plan on eating during this fuel cycle. It’s extremely simple and super easy to follow! I usually start on Sunday but you can start the cycle on any day.
Sunday-Tuesday: THM Deep S Meals
Breakfast options: Eggs and bacon, bulletproof coffee
Protein shake with coconut oil
Lunch options- Buffalo chicken (make a buffalo sauce with butter and Texas Pete, add chicken) over cauliflower rice, salad with olive oil and vinegar.
Chicken over greens with cucumbers, olive oil, and vinegar
Dinner- Steak with green peppers and steamed broccoli, Bunless burgers with cauliflower and salad, Parmesan tilapia with green beans
Treats/Snacks- skinny chocolate, deli meat, tummy tucking ice cream with skinny chocolate shell
Wednesday-Thursday: Fuel Pull Meals (The toughest part of the cycle!)
Breakfast- Cookie Bowl Oatmeal, Trimmie light
Lunch options: Turkey lettuce wraps with cucumbers and FSF, leftover turkey burger with broccoli
Dinner: Turkey burgers with steamed broccoli, Tilapia with green beans and salad
Treats/Snacks- deli meat, cheese stick, shake, gluccie pudding, cottage whip, tummy tucking ice cream
Friday-Saturday: E Meals
Breakfast: Oatmeal with collagen tea
THM pancakes with greek yogurt and berries
Lunch: Grilled chicken with sweet potato and salad, leftover chicken with quinoa and broccoli
Dinner: Chicken with quinoa and broccoli, Light chili (page 330, old book)
Treats/Snacks: gluccie pudding, apple and cheese stick, cottage whip, deli meat
Now that I am doing the simple thm fuel cycle, I will change the children’s breakfast schedule to fit my meal plan. For example, instead of having oats on Monday, I will wait until my E day. This way I can avoid making different meals for everyone and it helps keep me on plan.
I hope this has encouraged you to avoid over-complicating your meal plan. Following THM doesn’t have to be overwhelming or time consuming if you simply go back to the basics.