One of the fundamental habits I recommend to create and live a healthy life every day is to implement some form of meal planning. This way, when time is tight you are prepared. Let’s face it nowadays many of us are in homes where all the adults work or we have tons of activities that keep our days packed full. Resulting in a lack of time for the mundane stuff like meal planning and grocery shopping.
I don’t know about you, but if I come home from work and don’t have a clue what to prepare for dinner, I will take the easy way out and order food in. Generally, my choice contains way more calories or is more unhealthy than something I would have prepared on my own. In addition, it is likely to cost me 2-4x more than cooking a meal at home.
I am not saying that eating out shouldn’t be a part of the plan. I actually think it’s a good idea to plan on not cooking one night to give yourself a break. But then make sure that for the rest of the week you know what you will prepare and have the groceries on hand. Even if once a week you splurge on that one meal and not eat as healthy as you like, then the rest of your meals during the week will balance it out. One meal or one day will not ruin or kill any form of healthy eating plan, it’s all about the balance over time.
Meal planning is a concept I think I learned from my mom. My memory isn’t great, but I do remember her sitting down with cookbooks and magazines. She would go through them in search of new recipes to prepare for dinner. Plus, since she worked outside of the home, it was important that she got her shopping done on the weekend. That way we had food at home to prepare during the week. By planning ahead, it also allowed her the flexibility to have one of us prepare dinner if she wasn’t home in time. I remember that for a period of time in high school, I cooked dinner most evenings which was great because I got out of doing the dishes!
Why meal plan?
- Easier to stick with diet plans or healthy meals throughout the week
- Less anxiety when you come home from a hard day at work
- More affordable
- Planning ahead and prepping items in advance is easier to implement
- Anyone can cook dinner – dad, mom, kids
Strategies for meal planning
There is always the old school method of using cookbooks, magazines and newspapers like my mom used to do. But, I find that these days it’s way too time consuming. Also, cookbooks don’t always have pictures for each and every recipe, so if something doesn’t immediately sound amazing, I just skip over it since there’s no picture to help sell it. Of course, there is nothing wrong with using this method, but I think many of us can save some time and energy using the internet to help us.
One of the easiest tools to use to plan meals is
using social media and the web to plan your meals.
Facebook and Instagram
I recommend finding a few different pages or accounts on Facebook or Instagram that you can follow. I hope that you will start with following me first cookeatlivelove and @cookeatlivelove. Nowadays you can search hashtags used in posts on Instagram. That means that you can search topics such as #quickmeals #healthycooking #recipes #vegetarianrecipes. These are just a few examples of how you can search but really the possibilities and combinations are endless.
My Instagram and Facebook Favorites
Two of my favorites to follow are Tasty and Tasty Vegetarian (@tasty and @tastyvegetarian). Their posts aren’t always the healthiest, but I really enjoy that they incorporate videos to show how the items are made. Plus, just because a recipe doesn’t look so healthy, doesn’t mean you can’t ever make it. Maybe you can use it for a special occasion or maybe you can look for ways to make adjustments in a recipe without sacrificing flavor.
In addition, I enjoy posts by Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian. I follow her on both Instagram (@sharonpalmerrd) and on Facebook. Several years ago when I was in school studying nutrition, I read her book, “The Plant-Powered Diet” and it made me fall in love with vegetables. She really has a way of making vegetables sound so tasty along with simple explanations of how much they do for your body. She also has a blog which she posts recipes throughout the week. Just the other day I saw a video post on facebook for Spicy Lentil Tacos that looked delish and I know I will be cooking this recipe for dinner soon.
Once you find a recipe you like, use the save post function on Facebook to save them for later. Or as I explain below, you can save the link to one of your Pinterest boards.
There are two main ways that I use Pinterest. The first is you can use it to search for recipes. Because it is such a visual application, you can make selections with your eyes which is generally how we eat anyway. This means that I can quickly scroll through whatever comes up in my search and visually choose recipes to look at further. Also, if you find someone who has lots of recipes that appeal, you can choose to follow their boards.
When you follow, you will get notifications when they have pinned or posted a recipe.
I also use Pinterest as a method of collecting and organizing recipes I see online that I think look and sound good. Once you create your account, you create boards which you can organize however you want. Maybe by meals such as breakfast, lunch, dinner. But you can also get more specific and organize them by ethnicity or ingredients. Take a look at my account to see what I am talking about.
The websites out there with great recipes is simply endless. Just about every chef, dietitian, and foodie seems to have a website or blog out there today. But here are a few of my favorites below. I have included links to their sites and one of my favorite recipes that I’ve tried from their site.
Smitten Kitchen offers recipes for what I consider to be comfort foods. Her recipes are straightforward and simple. They don’t contain a lot of difficult to find ingredients and her instructions are easy to follow.
The Kitchn is a much larger website and offers recipes, videos and articles on various cooking and food related topics. Over the years, I have tried several of their recipes and been happy with the outcome. Also, I find that they are very up to date on what is new in food trends.
Hummusapien focuses mostly on plant-based recipes with the occasional fish recipe thrown in. She is a registered dietitian so I do find her recipes to be much more focused on overall balance and health than the other two I mentioned. She also shares a lot about her own experience and relationship with food which I really enjoy.
Also, you can follow the above websites on facebook and Instagram, so that you regularly receive notification of their new material being posted on the website.
Why use the internet?
- The top reason I recommend using the internet to plan meals is that it is easy and will save you time in the long run.
- On your favorite website you can usually search by ingredients, making it easy to plan meals with items you already have on-hand.
- Google has to be one of the most powerful tools on earth. I use it all the time to search for recipes. Then when I find one I like I will pin it to the appropriate board on Pinterest so that when I am ready to prepare the meal, the recipe is at my fingertips.
- Once you’ve planned out the meals for the week, you can easily create a grocery list. Some websites are advanced enough that they will create a grocery list for you based on the recipe you select.
I imagine that many of you reading this are fairly tech savvy and possibly already using these different tools to plan your meals. But for those of you that struggle, let me know and I would be glad to spend a few minutes walking you through some of these uses, or maybe it is another idea for a blog post. Let me know what you think in the comments. Do you have other ways you are using the web to meal plan? Tell me about them in the comment section below or send me an email.