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Many of the headaches involved with food stem from a lack of planning. Setting aside a little time each week in order to make a plan for your meals is going to help save you time and money and allow you to make healthier choices for yourself and your family. The benefits of meal planning are so life-changing that it is typically one of the first things I discuss with most clients to put them on the path to success.
If you are new to plant-based eating, if you’re transitioning, if you’re thinking about going plant-based or your meals are just all over the place and you just feel like there’s a lot of chaos going on – look no further. Because to every problem, there is a solution. For this one, it is meal planning. I will share my top five tips that will help you start incorporating meal prepping into your weekly routine. Even if you don’t know how to cook – don’t worry, I’ve got you!
1. Set Up Your Meal Prep Environment For Success
To start with, you want the kitchen to be a place that you actually enjoy being in. So, before you start to dive into the practical part of meal prepping, you might want to just clean your surfaces and tidy up the countertops. If you are working with limited space altogether, then perhaps remove all items like a blender or toaster for the time being from your kitchen, so you can spread your wings properly.
To go even one step further, look through your pantry and all your drawers to see what items of food but also cooking utensils you still use and what you can donate. Giving the kitchen a tiny makeover can have wonderful effects and will also create a sense of spaciousness. Because chaos in the kitchen causes chaos in our brain, too. If you compare the kitchen to your desk, you might understand. As I always say:
“Before we even start talking about how you can meal plan or how you can meal prep, the number one thing is you have to at least want to be in your kitchen.”
2. Identify Your Why
Once you’ve organized your kitchen and workspace, it’s time to contemplate on why you want to meal prep in the first place. For most people, a big win is that you can save time, especially during a workweek. Not only is it time that you win back for not cooking daily, but you also don’t even have to think about what you want to eat. Think about being in a restaurant that has 3 items on the menu, versus one that features 30. You will most likely know what you want a lot quicker when you have fewer options to choose from. It also allows you to make well-balanced, yummy food choices in advance.
Meal prepping is also budget-friendly. For one, you can buy items in bulk and just have one big shop when you’re about to meal prep. But also, your utilities might go down as the stove won’t be on every day, perhaps. You’ll also be less likely to order take out or spend money on impulsive supermarket purchases or convenience food, which tends to be more expensive than pantry staples. But let Katie tell you firsthand how meal prepping impacted her financial situation:
“Before I started meal planning, my grocery bill was through the roof and that doesn’t even count all the takeout I was getting. I’m just cooking for one. And so, I can get breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for a week for like $50. […] It’s crazy how different my life is and how much bigger my pocketbook is.”
3. How to Find Meal Prep Friendly Recipes
Ok, so once you’ve figured out your personal reasons behind meal prepping, it’s time to find those yummy recipes. But where to even start? As you can easily get lost in the world wide web of delicious vegan food, be mindful of the time you spend surfing. What’s your favorite platform? Do you prefer online recipes or printed cookbooks?
One way to find recipes that suit you is to either look at all the food that you have at home or perhaps you’ve had a specific craving over the past days that you want to nurture. Maybe give yourself an hour to research, that should be plenty of time. I also recommend finding easy, simple recipes, to not overcomplicate your meal prep.
If you don’t even know where to start, because you’re new to plant-based eating, maybe limit yourself to one or two cookbooks or blogs. You can also check out your local library and find inspiration there, without having to purchase a cookbook. If you need to be more visually stimulated, check out YouTube.
Once you’ve found your medium, find a time of the week that works for you and that still gives you plenty of time to shop and meal prep afterwards. We don’t want it to be a stressful experience, as that will make you less likely to repeat it. I like to sit down with a cup of coffee as I flick through my favorite plant-based recipe books.
And once you’ve been meal prepping for a few weeks, you’ll also have your personal curated list of recipes that you like, so you might not even spend that much time researching anymore.
4. Make a Meal-Prep Friendly Grocery List
Alright, so you’ve got your recipes for this week, let’s turn them into a grocery list. Not only is a grocery list less time consuming, but also way more efficient. You probably know the experience of wandering around the grocery store, not knowing what you need but ending up buying things you don’t really need, and after way too much time in the store, you leave with a much thinner wallet. Not fun, is it?
And as you are creating a grocery list, it allows you to also check your pantry and fridge to see what you already have at home to avoid double purchases and food waste. Especially, when the recipes mention dried spiced, herbs or other pantry items that you might already own.
5. Allow Yourself Flexibility
Just because you planned out your week doesn’t mean that you now must obey to this plan without any room for flexibility. Say, you want to go out with friends one evening for dinner. Then go for it! You can also decide to cook from scratch one day, even though you’ve already meal prepped. You’ll just have your pre-cooked meal some other time, no big deal. Because moods change and just because you felt like having tacos a few days ago doesn’t mean that you will want them today. As I always say:
“Give yourself some grace. The point of all of this is not to be restrictive. The point is to save you time and to make life easier.”
Hopefully, you’ve found these 5 tips helpful and are now confident to embark upon your personal meal prep journey. With every beginning, however, it might take time to find what works for you. So, give yourself a bit of time and space. Know that you’re already doing your best. I also have a lot of meal preps on my social media profiles and blog, so be sure to check them out if you’re looking for inspiration!
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