Meal Planning 101: Part One – The Basics

Posted on: August 28th 2016

True story: I’m not perfect.

Yep. I’ll be the very first to admit that I rarely eat 6 macro-balanced meals per day. That style of eating is just not always viable for my real life. Nor is three squares always right for everyone. Or paleo, or intermittent fasting, or any other dietary approach. We’re all different people with different dietary needs and different dietary rhythms.

Having said that, there is one meal plan that can be applied to every single person with amazing results! What is it?


Any plan!

If you want to eat better, healthier, more, less, leaner, or generally make any change to the way you feed yourself, planning is essential. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again, failing to plan is planning to fail. Meal planning and meal prepping can save you time and money, and help you achieve the change you’re trying to make.

I’ll bet that every single one of us has said “I really need to change XYZ about my eating habits,” and then struggled to follow through. Even when you really want to make a change, the execution can be tough. I know, I’ve tried to make changes that didn’t pan out, and nearly every time it was because I didn’t have a plan of how to get to the change I wanted.

So, let’s talk about how to make meal plan and prep easy!

How to get started:

  • Invest in good stackable food storage containers. If you’re making multiple meals at once, you’ll need containers to store them in, and you’ll need those containers to take up minimal space in your fridge.
  • Sketch out your week (or 3-4 days worth) of meals in advance (leave some wiggle room as well).
  • Pick one day a week as your prep day. I like to make this the same day as my grocery shopping day.
  • You don’t have to batch cook everything, but a few pre-prepped meals in the freezer is never a bad thing.

Does that still seem overwhelming?

The whole point of preparing in advance is to make things easier for you when life gets busy. For some folks, though, committing a huge chunk of a day to shopping, chopping, and cooking a week’s meals is not realistic (and honestly, is a big deterrent for many people trying to start this process).

If you don’t have the time for a big cooking session, don’t worry; there’s still lots you can do to simplify your life:

  • If you don’t have time to pre-cook chicken breasts or steaks (or want them freshly cooked), you can just pre-make the marinade and leave them in the fridge or marinate them then freeze. One less step when you’re ready to eat them!
  • Instead of trying to tackle every single meal you’re going to eat on one prep day, just prep breakfasts, or lunches (or both) and make your dinners each night.
  • You can portion out veggies, nuts and seeds as you unload from shopping.
  • Some veggies are great pre-chopped (carrots, celery, cauliflower, spiralized zucchini and squash noodles), some not so much (cucumber, tomatoes). Cut up the ones that are hardy enough to last.
  • Washing fruit counts as prep!

All of those tips seem like common sense, right? So, where does it get complicated? Usually in the planning. If you’re not used to having a meal plan, it can be easy to either underplan and end up falling back on unhealthy favourites or overplan and make things WAY too complicated.

Keeping it simple and achievable is key. I try to incorporate this sort of simplicity into my weekly plans:

Pick a protein and prepare it a few different ways

I’m a flyer-hound and I like to pick out the most on sale protein at my grocery store and structure my weekly meals around it. That doesn’t mean eating the same protein every day, but it definitely means eating the same protein more than once. Take chicken, for example. Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean eating boring, baked chicken breasts every night. Why not buy some chicken, get some Ziploc bags and go bananas! Take 1lb of chicken, 1/4C EVOO and a bag, toss in the spices/herbs/zest of your choice (chilli, garlic, lemon, cilantro, honey, etc.). Label and freeze. When you’re ready to eat them, defrost and grill for 6-8 minutes. This method gives you a whole bunch of options with one simple protein as the anchor. It’s also super quick and makes you feel like you got a lot done. We’ll share some specific marinade options in the next post.

Pick the fresh stuff

Veggies and fruit should be a cornerstone of your meal prep. You can chop them, freeze them, roast them – whichever way you prepare them, you’re saving time and ensuring that you have healthy additions to every snack and meal. Like I said before, if you’re going to pre-chop, make sure you’re picking veggies and fruits that will taste good and maintain their texture after chopping. Some fruits, like apples and pears, will brown if you pre-chop them but the browning slows down if you soak them in salt water for 10 minutes, rinse them off, pat dry and store. If you’re freezing veggies for future cooking, blanch them (meaning partially boil or steam, but don’t fully cook), let them cool and pop them in the freezer. If you’re roasting, you can cook veggies in the same pan for roughly the same amount of time to keep your prep efficient: asparagus, tomatoes, and mushrooms cook fast, carrots, cauliflowers and potatoes cook slow. Broccoli, onions and peppers are somewhere in the middle – though these can be added to your slow cooking veggies without too much trouble.

Pick your favourites

Though it might not be thrilling, having a few key meals that you eat often is one of the best ways to achieve lasting dietary change. You need to make sure they’re nutritionally complete, and that you can mix them up a bit to keep things interesting, but say having a muffin-tin breakfast frittata most mornings (in which you can have various veggies, proteins and so on) keeps your routine simple and prevents planning overload. Love salads? Have a base than you use all the time, and toss in different toppers. Smoothie fan? Great! Pick a recipe that’s easy for you, and toss in different fruits, nuts, veggies or greens to spice it up. In the next post, we’ll give you some great hacks that will make your faves even easier and tastier!

– – – – –

Those are the very basics of how to start making meal prepping and planning a reality.

We’ll dig in a bit deeper in our next post. Meanwhile, why not take a stab at some basic meal planning and prep? Take just a couple of my suggestions and see if you can implement them, step by step. Once these new habits start to feel routine, you can start to add in more of these tips, if you like!

Now Booty and I want to hear from you: How do you plan? What challenges do you face when getting ready for a week of meals? What can we help with? Comment below!

Happy chopping!

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