How to Simplify Meal Planning

Meal Planning in the Digital Age

In the Pinterest age, meal planning has become the be all end all of eating well. It can save you hundreds of dollars, help you lose weight, help you connect with your children, help you hate grocery shopping less, help you find the lost city of Atlantis.

Well, I’m obviously exaggerating a little. Nothing can make you hate grocery shopping less.

Anyway, I too fell in love with the idea of advance meal planning and having Pinterest worthy meals every day. But here’s a friendly reminder: Fantastic solutions for one person may not be the solution for you.

*Cue the record scratch and freeze frame*

At the risk of being decimated by the Pinterest Gods, here’s what happened when I stopped advanced meal planning:


I Saved Time

When I got caught up in the meal planning train, I used to spend a lot of time looking for inspiration. So much time, in fact, that I’d inevitably end up overwhelmed, trying to calculate ingredients, putting together a list, or just getting sucked into the wormhole that is Pinterest and ordering pizza because I lost track of time.

So I left the Pinspiration behind.

Instead, I keep it simple. I go out knowing that my meal will require a lot of green vegetables or a salad, an unfrozen, lean protein source- such as chicken, and a healthy carb option- like brown rice or quinoa. Occasionally, I’ll look up a recipe and do something different to keep things interesting.


Try This Instead:

  • Pick one or two Pinterest or meal inspiration dishes to make per week. Don’t overwhelm yourself.
  • Many stores have healthy, prepared options for your consideration. Grabbing a tray of chopped and seasoned veggies can eliminate prep time for a nominal fee.
  • Account for leftovers. You don’t need a new meal for every day if you make enough to carry over. Pro tip: pack away your leftovers before dinner is served, to reduce the likelihood of going for seconds.


I Saved Money

Usually, people get into advanced meal planning with cost savings at the forefront of their mind. Unfortunately, advanced meal planning doesn’t always allow for is contingency planning or real life interruptions. What about times when the store is out of a key ingredient for your meal? Or the times when your significant other tries to be helpful by bringing home take out? Maybe there was an emergency at work, and you didn’t get a chance to do your meal batching for the week. All of a sudden you have this leftover food which may or may not see the inner workings of your digestive system.

By going to the store a couple of times a week (which is only possible for those geographically close to a store) I spent the same amount of money on food, but wasted significantly less. In the end, I didn’t pay for food I wasn’t eating. It does take time and discipline to get used to walking into a store and limiting yourself to a few choice items.


Try This Instead:

  • Carry a basket rather than a large cart. You’ll be less likely to include things you don’t need.
  • Check for markdowns. My biggest cost saver has been buying meat approaching its sell-by date. These options are often marked down to half the price, and you’ll be eating them within the next few hours anyway.
  • Limit yourself. Set a timer or take a limited amount of money with you, until you’re comfortable enough walking into the store for $20 worth of groceries without spending $200.


I Didn’t Get Bored

Let’s be honest; there is no amount of meal planning in the world that’s going to stop you from satisfying a craving. It doesn’t help if you’ve eaten the same thing three days in a row. By ditching the traditional meal planning methods, I was able to be more fluid in my meal decisions. Furthermore, inspiration would hit me in the store while walking through the produce aisle.


Try This Instead:

  • Plan your meals to last a few days, rather than a week.
  • Keep your seasoning game strong. Chicken can boast a million different flavors with the right application of spices. You can use the same ingredients and make a completely different dish by incorporating different rubs, marinades, and cooking methods.
  • Embrace the seasons. Some produce is only available at a certain time of year. Enjoy it while it lasts!


For the Diehard Meal Planners

I’m sure there are more than a few of you, some of my super organized friends included, that are scoffing at my weakness in the face of meal planning. So, as a friendly reminder, this article isn’t about the evils of meal planning. It’s about recognizing that there is no one-size fits all approach to food.

Everyone has different culinary tastes, cooking capabilities, budgets, and goals. Have you had success with meal planning, or do you prefer to go a different route? Comment below and share your opinion.

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