Do you wonder what you’re going to have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day? Do you wish you could eat healthier and boost your productivity and energy level? Or maybe you would like to spend less money on fast foods and prepare nutritious meals at home instead? I have a very good solution for you here – Meal Planning!
A Productivity-Boosting Meal Plan
(How to meal plan for maximum productivity?)
What is Meal Planning?
Meal Planning is basically the way you organize your meals for a day, a week or a month if you wish. This is a perfect method for those busy people who don’t have much time to think about food but still want to have a balanced diet that can reward them with productivity and energy and give their body some nutritious meals instead of fast food crap.
There is no universal formula for meal planning and what works for me may not work for you. However, the ultimate goal is to have a meal planner that supports your healthy food choices and works for you and your individual lifestyle.
After all, food is the fuel that gives you energy and helps you be productive during the day. With this in mind, you need some good planning and a system, which can keep things simple and easy.
Benefits of meal planning:
Saves you money
Helps you eat real food
Less stress on what to eat
Helps with reducing food waste
Contributes to better healthy choices
Provides means for a balanced diet and food tracking
But for many of us, creating a meal plan is more of an annoying chore than a helpful activity. And that’s mostly because it requires some initial effort and, to some of us, sounds too strict.
For me, however, starting a meal planner that is built around healthy food choices and shifting to a balanced diet has been a deal breaker. Especially after experiencing the negative effects of the fast food diet first hand.
Therefore, in this post, I will share with you my meal planning tips, which have helped me to eat better, provide more nutrients to my body and, respectively, boost my productivity, my mental clarity, and my energy level.
In the paragraphs below, there are plenty of ideas on how to get more organized with your meals and how to plan ahead. There are also a lot of suggestions to help you get inspired and start your meal planning right now.
Look for inspiration – For me, this is where it all started. I suggest you browse blogs and websites, collect recipes that look delicious, watch youtube videos, get some cookbooks and reach to the old notes. Get inspired!
Create a place to save your recipes and keep them organized. There are plenty of tools (both digital and on paper) you can choose from depending on how you like to organize your collections.
Put things together
Once you have a collection of meals to choose from start creating your meal planner for the day, the week, or the month if you wish. Here are a few ways to put things together:
• Start a weekly planner.
• Or a calendar.
• Or a magnet for the fridge.
Choose a shopping day and make a shopping list. For more convenience, you can use a shopping list app, sticky notes, or your to-do planner. There are also some meal-planning and recipe-saving services which let you do this easily, extracting ingredients from the recipes you have saved and filling them in your shopping list.
Prepare components for your meals. What I love to do and saves me tons of time is to pre-cut and prepare in bulk the main ingredients for the meals that I have planned so when it is time to eat, I can simply throw them together and have a meal in 20 minutes.
For instance, you can roast the meat for dinner and for the sandwiches the next day or prepare a batch of tomato sauce for the spaghetti and for lasagna the other day. Or you can try to cook in large batches of components on the weekend and then mix-and-match them according to what you are craving during the week.
Use some solid Meal-Prep Equipment. A simple veggie cutter is one of those kitchen tools that saves me tons of time when meal prepping and I highly recommend you to get one of these and finish with the chopping in a few seconds.
The garlic press is a tool that has saved my fingers from bad cuts and smelly nails millions of times and is also one of the must-haves in my kitchen equipment. I use it even for pressing ginger root and lemon slices!
I also like to use glass containers for storage because they preserve food better, last longer, don’t get stained and smelly like some of their plastic counterparts, and are better for the environment!
Use your freezer strategically. Freezing is a great way to store that double batch of sauce, soup or a stew and even stock on some seasonal veggies and fruits for cheap and have them offseason. I also use it to freeze fresh herbs which I buy in bulk like dill, basil, cilantro, etc. I pre-cut and freeze onions, citrus zest, peeled ginger, and even breads. Let a month go by, those will still look fresh and tasty!
Organize the refrigerator. It’s easy to forget about leftover foods and things that get hidden in the back when your fridge is over-full. But don’t let things go bad. Use transparent storage boxes to store food neatly and compact and divide the fridge into sections for designated products.
Plan for leftovers. If you often have leftovers which you don’t know what to do, you can get some inspiration for recipes from books or cooking blogs. Also, if you are not going to eat that little extra right away, put it in a storage box and freeze it.
Keep a well-stocked pantry. It is always easier and quicker to prepare meals when you don’t have to run to the shop for cooking oil, salt, and pepper at the last moment. Keep some whole wheat pasta and flour, brown rice, beans, and legumes at hand. Also, stock up with some nice spices and literally travel the world. A pinch of oregano can give that amazing taste of Italy while the Garam Masala powder can send you straight to India.
Meal planning tips for Non-Planners
Start with a weekly theme.
Probably the hardest part of planning a meal is deciding what the heck to make. Planning theme nights, like “meatless Monday”, “taco Tuesday” and “fish Friday”, however, can be really fun and it makes planning a menu much easier because it gives you a general idea what kind of recipe you need for every day.
If you feel more like a world-traveler and feel more experimental you can even set Asian, Greek, Indian, Italian, Moroccan or Mexican days, and give a try to recipes of these parts of the world.
Think of your fridge as a salad bar.
One of the fastest ways to get a healthy meal-in-a-bowl is to open your fridge and quickly combine some greens, cheese, ham and other ingredients that don’t need cooking. To have your salad bar ready you just have to prep some ingredients ahead and keep them in boxes for fresh storage for the week.
It takes less than 30 minutes on a Sunday to wash and shred all the veggies you need for a quick salad bowl and with a veggie cutter, even the chopping won’t take you more than a few minutes.
Cook your protein ahead of time.
I often boil a batch of eggs for the week so I can have them ready for breakfast or a quick salad. Cooking your meat ahead of time can help you quickly come up with a solution for dinner with some greens aside or soup, pasta, stir fry or a stew during the week.
Have a fallback meal.
When a busy day of the week comes, keep a few simple go-to recipes. A pack of pasta with canned tomato sauce, some cheese and oregano and whatever vegetables you have in the fridge can do for a meal in under 20 minutes. Another option is to order part of the meal (like a grilled chicken) and add your own sides.
Ask your family for input in your meal planning.
If there is always someone in the family who would have a complaint about the meals, it is a good idea to ask each member what they would like to have during the week and plan the daily meals and the ingredients. You can even place a family meal calendar where they can add their suggestions. Besides, this can make it fun and easier to solicit help in the kitchen and get the kids excited for prepping their meal.
And most importantly, have fun and eat well!
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