What Is Meal PlanNing Anyway?

I think meal planning is an intimidating concept for many.  Actually, I don’t think, I know!  Clients are always wondering — What is meal planning?  How do you do it?  When do you do it?  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), there is no one or right way to meal plan. 


Meal planning falls on a spectrum from creating seven perfectly-packed Mason jar meals, to writing a very loose outline for weekly meals.

I am a fan of the latter.  Why?  Because it’s easier, thus making it more sustainable (Read: you won't want to pull your hair out by the end of the week or month!).

I find meal planning of the traditional sense to imply something temporary.  “I’m going to meal plan this week and fill seven storage containers with chicken, brown rice and broccoli for all of my lunches and dinners.”  This is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.  So, that’s great for those seven days, but are you really going to do that again next week?  What about the week after that?  What about the importance of nutrient variety?  Are you really going to eat the same thing every day/week?  Hello, burnout!

To avoid the seemingly inevitable burnout that comes with meal planning, I highly recommend taking as little as ten minutes, one day a week (preferable the day before you go grocery shopping) to write down a simple list of main dishes and sides, followed by a grocery list (love this list app).

I suggest spending the majority of your time and energy on planning the dinner meal, as this is usually the hardest meal of the day to prioritize cooking/eating nutritious food (again, myself included!); we are tired, hungry, and maybe even a little hangry, and we need food NOW!  Sound familiar?

Try creating a rough plan for all dinner meals, Monday through Friday, on a chalkboard in your kitchen (something like this might work, too), or in a notebook.

To prevent planning and cooking the same dishes every week, aim to try one new recipe per week.  If the new recipe works, great!  If not, try another recipe next week!  This practice helps you to build your recipe "repertoire" over time. 



Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
Roasted Brussels sprouts


Chicken taco bowls
Romaine, cabbage, peppers, onions


Ground chicken lettuce wraps (from Real Food. Real Simple. cookbook)
Hericot vertes
Brown and cauliflower rice


Spaghetti squash
Italian sausage


Cauliflower crust pizza
Cheese, uncured pepperoni
Side salad

That’s it!  No more, “Hey, what sounds good for dinner?” or, “Oh crap, I’m missing that one ingredient…”. 

Planning ahead can be simple and fun, I promise — and it definitely does not need to mean investing in 30+ Mason jars.

Eat (& plan) well,