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Meal Planning 101

12:00 AM

I have been procrastinating for over three years to write this post.  I just knew that it would take a long time for me to sit and break down the process and I got distracted or lazy or both every time I decided to write it. But I am finally doing it so Yay! for me. Hopefully you all will find it useful.


Meal planning is a process, where you 'plan' your breakfast, lunch, dinner & snack options for minimum a week out. A common scenario in every household is the decision about 'WHAT TO EAT' and if there are more than one family members then longer the discussion. Meal planning would help you minimize the time of making those decisions and it would also help you stay within your budget.
I am not a nutritionist or a health expert. Everything I know is through books, internet and experience. But you don't need to be an expert to know that meal planning works. Whether you have a 9-5 job, or you are a busy mom, or you work from home, the time it would take you to make all your meals is the same. It doesn't change with your job.  However, a little planning will help you make sure you are making nutritious choices no matter what.


The planning would start with Menu creation. You can download a free Menu Planning PDF here. Every week, I and my husband would take five minutes out and write down what we would like to eat this coming week. We would also take in account any prior appointments we might have. Once we have created our week long Menu, we deduce the grocery list from what ingredients we might need to cook what we have on the menu. Here we take stock of what is already in the refrigerator or pantry. We might also choose to alter the Menu at this point, if we feel it would be economical to buy one meat or vegetable in bulk and create two different dishes with it.  Some of the questions you should ask yourself while creating the grocery list are:
What all items are perishable?
Will I be able to use it all before it goes bad?
Can I create multiple dishes with ingredients which cost more?
And most importantly, do all these items provide me nutrition?


Now everyone's budget would vary according to your eating habits, number of family members and your geographic location. In our case between the two of us, I am a vegetarian and my husband eats everything. Our grocery list mostly comprises of fruits, vegetables, chicken breasts, fish, eggs, almond milk, beans, grains and a few Healthy Choice meals. We especially like Healthy Choice because they are made with real ingredients and no preservatives so we don’t have to worry about sacrificing taste or freshness. Also, Healthy Choice is the only major brand in the frozen meals section that can call 100% of its products “healthy” as approved by the FDA.
Meal Planning 1

Most important step while grocery shopping is sticking to the list. Do not venture out into the aisles and pick up bottles of sauces and jams just because you want to experiment or they look tempting. If you really need them, add them to your list next week and account for it in the budget. Picking up a few oranges and apples which were not on the list is not same as buying bags of chips or cheeses. Our average weekly budget is $75 and 9/10 times we are able to stay within our budget.
Meal Planning 6
Unlike other frozen meals, Healthy Choice Café Steamers’ feature a unique tray-in-tray steam cooking method that delivers fresh-tasting meals with crisp vegetables and juicy proteins. It also gives you the chance to be a part of the culinary experience as you pour your own sauce, determining how much or how little flavor you want with your meal. With each meal containing a mix of vitamins, nutrients and protein, Healthy Choice Café Steamers are a delicious, healthy, convenient option, whether at work, home or on the go. Find Healthy Choice Café Steamers in the freezer aisle at grocery stores nationwide for the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $3.29.


Now to the real work. So far it was all fun and games. Washing, chopping and preparing is where all the work lies. Now you bring out your Menu and start doing the prep work according to the cooking plan. Chop your vegetables and fruits, portion your produce according to the recipes (such as tomatoes, onions, lemons etc.).
Meal Planning 2

Depending on your liking you can either cook it all in one day (taking up to 3-4hours) or just to the prep work and cook every two days or as it suits you. Personally, I like to get all my cooking (well at least 90% of it in one go) and then I can relax knowing that I have a healthy option for every meal and do not ever have to wonder, "What should I eat?" when the hunger strikes.


Now the fun part. Bring out all your fun little containers and portion the food according to the meals. The ones that require you to carry with you 'on-the-go' make them easily accessible so that you can literally “grab and go”. I usually store them in the fridge according to the day, so the food for Friday will be on the bottom shelf right at the back, and the food for Monday will be on the top shelf right in front (assuming I am doing all the packing on Sunday!)
Meal Planning 4


Below are general ideas. 
Fruit parfait - strawberries, granola, and honey
Frozen fruit smoothie (berries, peaches, pineapple mixed with orange juice) with flax seed
Quinoa with raisins and tofu 
Green salad with tomatoes, avocado, red onion, cucumber and goat cheese
Panini on sourdough with mozzarella cheese, basil, pesto and tomato
Lentil soup and grilled vegetables
The Healthy Choice Simply Café Steamers
Salmon with kale and grilled beans
Chicken with brown rice and brocolli
Egg curry and vegetable stri-fried brown rice 

Trail mix
Apples / Oranges / Banana
Fist full of nuts
Pepper & hummus
MORE meal ideas here.

Meal planning and preparing takes a lot of time and effort but it ensures that you will make good choices throughout the day. Incorporating the above steps into my routine, has definitely helped my manage my time better and maintain a healthy lifestyle too. 
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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  1. I try to get the hubs to do meal planning on Sundays but he doesn't always get around to it (he's the cook). But I do like the tips you have here!

  2. meal planning has saved me so much and helped me eat healthier..its something i have learned over time and my goal is to inspire everyone to start meal planning :)

  3. Great looking, healthy options!

    Xo, Brianne

  4. I really need to get a schedule down with meal planning. All of these looks like great options.

    Amanda ||

  5. We are trying our best to do some more meal planning but life definitely gets in the way of course! Loving this guide, I'm going to share this with my boyfran! xx



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