Why Meal Plans Aren’t For Me

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When I first started trying to eat healthy, I wasn’t really sure exactly what I should be eating each day and I needed more than just recipe help. I dug through magazines and looked for meal plans for ideas. There are tons of them out there at your disposal. Clean Eating has some great plans as well as many of the fitness and health related magazines. Personally I had a hard time getting them to work with my situation.

Every day was something different for each meal so I ended up buying a little bit of this and a little bit of that which ended up with a lot of leftover stuff. This isn’t always a bad thing when it’s something that is non-perishable like rice. It’s not ideal with produce and I ended up buying a little bit of lots of produce varieties or throwing out rotten food. There was an awful lot of cooking and meal preparing involved on a daily basis.

It was also a lot of effort to figure out what I was making on what day, what I needed to pack each day, and so on. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that much time to spare with planning, prepping and thinking. If there’s a bunch of that going on, I typically get overwhelmed and give up. I tried modifying the plans so I repeated few of the days instead of 7 unique days, but that threw off the shopping list quantities that comes with the plans and I didn’t end up saving any time.

I came up with a perfect solution for me that I now implement each week like clockwork. I created a generic meal plan for a day’s worth of meals. Looking at it, I know what the make up of each meal is with regards to protein, fats, starches, fruits and veggies. Here is an example so you can see what I mean. The portion sizes will vary based on your calorie needs but this will give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

How To Make Up Each Meal

I use this layout to plan my shopping list and figure out what amounts I need. For example if I don’t eat out all week, I need 35 servings of protein (5 servings per day x 7 days). I’ll buy a combination of chicken, yogurt, tofu, and so on. On Sundays, I have a food prep session where I cook most of my proteins and veggies and wash my fruits. They are ready to go when I start packing food for the following day and when I need to throw dinner together.

Having a plan for each meal helps me put my meals together quickly. I get out a plastic containers and pick a protein, a starch and a fruit. Boom, breakfast packed. Repeat for my snack – protein, fruit, and starch. Each meal gets packed this way the night before so it’s ready to go in my lunchbox the next morning.

The plan also helps me figure out what to order if I suddenly decide to eat out. If I’m eating out for lunch, I know I need to order something with protein, starch, and veggies. Eating out at dinner will be protein, double veggies, and a fat like a salad dressing or avocado. It makes it easier to move things around when I lay it out this way. If I eat out at lunch and have a salad with dressing, I’ll take away one of the fats in the evening. If I have a specific plan like Clean Eating, it makes it harder to figure out what to modify when I end up eating out for a meal.

It takes a little bit of practice and planning, but now I’ve got it down to a well oiled process. I love being able to pack my meals for the next day in less than 10 minutes and I don’t have to resort to a tiny microwave meal. I also still have the option of picking meals from the Clean Eating meal plans when I want but I’m not stuck with trying to make my needs fit into their plan.

Do you have any tips for what you do when planning your meals? I’d love to hear them.

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