How to Plan Meals in a Time Crunch

Life is no longer linear or simple. Whoever you are, whatever role you play, if you ever have to feed yourself or someone else for any stretch of time, whether that’s for a month, a week, or even a day, you may spend an inordinate amount of time deciding what to make.

The task seems daunting, what will you make?  Will it taste good or maybe…better than good?  Will it be healthy?  What ingredients do I get and from where?  

However, as intimidating as the task may seem, so is the time it takes to plan your meals.  I love food and nutrition but I despise meal planning.  Yep, I do.  It often makes the life of busy cooks even busier and people that don’t like to cook less than excited about cooking at all!  Meal planning was supposed to help!

But meal planning is essential to your health and your budget.  In actuality, meal planning will help you cook on a budget of money and time, make your food innovative and interesting, and help you plan healthy meals that better meet your needs and those of the loved ones you are feeding.

Let’s take a look at how you can plan your meals more efficiently.

  1. Choose simple meals.  Do not think you need to create an eclectic menu where you are always trying to “go big or go home.” Understand that some of your most trusted and classic recipes are those that take advantage of the natural flavor of the ingredients.  Good food is not complicated.  Goof for you food is not complicated.  Try to choose meals that are healthy and simple, and those will yield the most flavor with the least ingredients.


  1. Allot time for meal planning.  When meal planning is an abstract concept that you mull over all day, it starts creeping into all other aspects of your day.  Ain’t nobody got time for that!!!  You may become indecisive and shift between multiple meals. You crack open the recipe books and blogs and end up spending a large chunk of time just searching. At the next mealtime, you end up trying to cobble together a complex meal that took more from you than it gave.  That is such a disappointment I try to avoid at all costs.  Set aside 10 minutes every day to plan for the next day, or for as far in advance as you can manage within that time limit. This will allow you to be more decisive and save time cooking and planning.


  1. It’s a team effort.  If you are cooking for a family, enlist their help.  Everyone has to eat which means that the chore of feeding the family should never completely rest on the shoulders of one individual within the family.  If one person does most of the cooking, the other can do the planning, shopping, food prepping, and/or dishes.  Give each family member a day where they get to choose what the family will have that day for meals.  Give them healthy requirements that their meal suggestions should meet such as a balance of protein, fat and complex carbohydrates.  You get a plan for your meals and a very happy family that gets what it wants from the kitchen.  As parents, you will also be educating and empowering your children to learn to feed themselves responsibly and thoughtfully instead of relying on others as they get older to take care of their health.


  1. Set health objectives for the days.  What is it that your body requires?  Have you been under the weather lately?  Is there something you want your children having that they do not get enough of?  Set goals you want to meet and deficiencies you want to make up for. Have a day selected for fish, chicken, beef or vegetarian. Choosing a “themed protein” makes your meal planning much more streamlined, effective and interesting and will make your weekly planning healthier with more variety and convenience.  If you are training hard for an athletic performance event, take note of your needs on certain training days/weeks based on how much food or macronutrient (fat, carbohydrates, proteins) you are going to need in comparison to a not so intense training week.  


  1. Make plan-ahead meals.  Build a stock of staples such as tomato puree or spice mixes.  You could even make sides such as mashed potatoes, green beans, steamed cauliflower or rice ahead of time and freeze them.  This will make you plan meals according to what sides you have available and all you will have to do is pair main dishes with sides.  Not only will this cut down your meal planning time but it will also significantly reduce your cooking time. 


  1. Make more from less.  Make an inventory of everything you already have in your fridge and plug the variables in to find what you can make from what you already have. This gives you a specific set of recipes that you can explore in your meals and ensure minimum food wasting.


Did you know that I have a monthly Meal Plan Membership available to you?  I’ve done all the work for you and provide members with meal plans, yummy recipes (free of gluten, dairy and refined sugar) a shopping list and even coaching support for only $37!

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