Meal Planning 101: First Steps to Mapping Out Your Meals

November 5, 2021

Meal planning can sound like a tedious task that no one has time for. But it’s an important step in health and being a mindful eater. Take a look at how to get started with meal planning today!

Trying to figure out what to eat everyday is hard. Sometimes it feels like we are so bored of all the foods we always eat and just have no appetite for them anymore. It’s not easy to always be creative with our meals, and it’s much easier to order takeout then deal with trying to plan a meal.

This time of year especially I find that this is a struggle. But the health benefits of planning your own meals, and cooking for yourself more than ordering in, outweighs the difficulty of the task. Preparing your own meals gives you control of what your food is, what is being added to it, how it is cooked and prepared, and most importantly the portion served. Having control of what you are eating is a simple first step to getting a handle on your health. When we trust restaurants and other outside sources to prepare our food for us we are trusting that they care about our health. Unfortunately, these are businesses, and our health is not their top priority. By making an effort to shop and cook for yourself you can put your health first and in the end, choose a more fiscally responsible path for yourself.

Where do I start? 

For those of us who eat based on our moods, as opposed to a rigid structure, meal planning is a burdensome task. But meal planning does not have to mean knowing exactly what you are going to eat every minute of every day. It can simply mean, I have an idea of what I want to eat this coming week and I know what ingredients I need to make that happen. Make it realistic for you. If you know that Monday and Tuesday are going to be very busy days for you and are sure that meal prep is not practical, then prepare on Sunday for Monday and Tuesday, and let yourself be flexible on Wednesday through Saturday. The idea with meal planning is to evaluate your lifestyle and make sure your meals fit into it.

Ok, what’s next?

  • Buy a cookbook. Stroll the aisles of your local bookstore and look for an exciting new cookbook that has you looking forward to preparing and eating your next meal. If you feel like a novice with the task of food prep, start with a basic book like Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Ease into it. And if you have convinced yourself that you are no good at cooking, then convince yourself that you are!
  • Roam the farmers market or join a CSA. I personally love roaming the market or getting a farm box without knowing what’s going to come in it. It challenges me to try new plants and to get creative with them. It’s like a Chopped challenge. Chat with the vendors at the market and learn about what they grow and when, so you know what to look forward to. Challenging yourself to choose seasonal products gives you the added benefit of knowing that you won’t be eating the same things for too long. With an added bonus of caring for the environment!
  • Get inspired on social media. Although social media can go through trends when it comes to food posts, there is still plenty of content out there to help with planning what you want. Find an account or 2 that shares interesting dishes that intrigue you and keep an eye on it. If a post intrigues you, save it, so you can come back to it when you are ready to cook. Choose ideas that are not too complicated but are still exciting to you, so you are motivated to make it without it feeling like a burden.

Now you’re ready to map it out and get cookin’! Remember that your plate should be half fruits and vegetables, with your grain and protein split on the other half. Use this plate method to decide what dishes will be served when, and with what meal.