An average person eats three meals per day and every meal requires a number of essential nutrients to be present on the plate. Everyone wants to eat healthy but it is difficult to remain consistent for three meals a day on every single day, and understandably so, if you have a busy schedule (much like everyone does these days). Plus, spending so much time cooking everyday admittedly interferes with productivity to an extent.
Yet still, you might be successfully cooking your meals each day but does that mean you’re being mindful about them, or are you consuming what is just enough to keep you full?
Whether you’re looking to save time, avoiding the dilemma of deciding what to eat for the day, getting rid of the monotony in your meals or simply wanting to eat better – you MUST try meal planning.
The definition of Meal planning is simple. It means planning your meals ahead of time. You pick a few recipes, go grocery shopping for all the required ingredients and you’re all set for a period of time. But how meal planning is carried out varies for each individual.
So we’re here with a versatile meal planning guide that you can experiment with until you find what works best for you.
1. Write it down : The first rule to planning something is to take a paper and pen and write it down. Decide how much time you plan to cover and create a table mentioning the meals for that day. If you’re a beginner we would suggest starting with planning for not more than 4 days or so and not more than one meal per day. Then increase gradually.
#Tip : You don’t have to assign a dish to a particular day. Rather keep your meal plan flexible and pick the recipe based on what you feel like eating on that day. As long as you have the ingredients, it doesn’t matter when you cook something.
2. Pick recipes : The best part about planning and preparing beforehand is that you can be creative and try new things you otherwise wouldn’t take the time to try. So, take a look at some recipes over the internet that you might enjoy and write them down. If you’re planning for 4 days, keeping one meal intact for each day – then 4 recipes is what you will be starting with.
Tip #1 : You can choose recipes which share the similar basic ingredients to maintain a budget.
Tip #2 : Plan ways to utilise/incorporate your leftovers from the previous meal into your next meal. For example, you can pair your leftover veggies with brown rice. Also, you can make a burrito, sandwich or a wrap with your leftover tofu scramble, and so forth.
3. Divide the grocery list into categories : Once you have your recipes on paper, divide the ingredients into categories so that you can determine the quantity of the shared ingredients, cost of your independent ingredients and your overall budget. This makes shopping less confusing because you know exactly what you’re looking for and how much of everything you need. This will also prevent wastage and save money.
4. Budget and reverse meal planning : If picking a variety of random and unrelated recipes are interfering with your budget, you can try ‘reverse meal planning’. Instead of buying groceries according to the recipe, you find recipes according to the ingredients you can afford. An effective way to do this is write down a basic grocery list first and then start looking for recipes based on what you already plan to buy. Even if there’s an additional ingredient or two that you might require (just to keep things interesting), you still won’t have to go completely out of your way to buy a variety of ingredients.
5. Batch cooking
What we have explained till now is very basic meal planning. With the aforementioned steps, you will have a clear idea what to eat and acquire the ingredients to prepare your food for a period of time. But how do we make this more time efficient? That is where batch cooking comes in.
If you are to prepare your meal from scratch every single day, it will take you approximately 40 minutes for each meal. But if you were to subtract prep time (time spent on chopping and marinating) from the cooking time, then it would hardly take you 20-30 minutes to fix a meal.
So, take an hour or two on the weekend to prepare your ingredients beforehand and store them in either airtight containers or zip lock bags.
#Tip : Batch cooking still requires you to cook fresh meals, unlike meal prep where you store fully prepared meals in the freezer to heat later and consume. Batch cooking solves the mental burden of collecting ingredients and significantly reduces cooking time, whilst still allowing you to eat fresh meals.
6. Frozen meals : If you want to save even more time, you may cook all your meals in advance during the weekend. This meal prep method just requires you to heat the food and voila! You just need to cook once and then you can focus on other things throughout the week with no worries about your next meal. You can find an endless amount of freezer friendly recipes online. This needs all the work put in at once but yields a trouble free couple of days.
Tip #1 : Make sure to freeze the food within 2-3 hours of cooking it
Tip #2 : Only thaw your frozen meals once.
The priority, in this blog, is to supply the reader with clear and unambiguous information. However, neither The New Me nor Gagan Dhawan makes promises, or guarantees regarding the completeness of the information found here. The content is not a replacement for advice of a licensed professional. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the writer’s.