10 Steps to Easy Meal Planning
If you don’t plan, you plan to fail *insert eye roll* cheesy I know, but it’s so true - especially on a Whole30. One of the things I love about making a meal plan is that it helps avoid decision fatigue during the week. You know, that panic feeling you have when you open the fridge when you're starving and don't know where to start? The Whole30 can feel restrictive if you don’t have a plan, but if you know you’re making lettuce wraps Tuesday and a frittata Thursday, it can really make things easier and give you something to look forward to!
I try not too be too rigid in my plan so I can adjust as needed if something comes up, but planning before you go grocery shopping is KEY. It takes me around 30 mins per week to create a meal plan following the tips below, and if you get groceries delivered you can be under an hour to feeling ready to face the week.
This is how I create my weekly meal plan:
Pull up my calendar and add up roughly how many meals I need to plan (and what types). Do I have any early mornings or late afternoons that need something quick and convenient? Any plans with friends, dinners or lunches that I'll be eating out? I usually need 2-3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 3-4 dinners (taking into account lots of leftovers).
Check the forecast! Weather can really help guide my choices - if it’s raining I’ll plan for a soup or chili, if it’s hot I’ll gravitate towards salads and wraps.
Take a quick glance in the fridge to see what ingredients I have left from the week before. I’m all about reducing food waste (and saving $) and what I have is often a starting point for inspiration.
If I do have leftover ingredients, or anything about to expire, I’ll start by searching Pinterest for ideas. Ex, “Whole30 asparagus soup” to see what comes up. I’ve found some awesome recipes this way!
Next, I am a cookbook lover and I'll pick one of my Whole30 cookbooks and pick a recipe or two that looks good. Then I try to pick a second recipe using some of the same ingredients, especially if I'm buying something I don't eat often. It took me many many spoiled bags of green onions, parsley, etc to get here but I try not to buy things for one recipe only.
If you're not a recipe person, you can just start your grocery list here, listing out protein and veggie combos that work for each of the meals you need to make.
I start to create my meal plan in the Notes app on my phone next, adding links to Pinterest recipes, taking photos of cookbook recipes (in case I need to check something at the store) and build my grocery list. I used to use an Excel meal planning sheet, and then I had a weekly planner, but I've found Notes just works best for me on the go.
Oh, and don’t forget snacks! I make snacks it’s own category and keep a list, because when I’m hungry I tend to forget what I have ready to go. Lately, I've also been making a batch of soup for the week, so when I'm hungry in between meals I can have a quick nourishing cup. You can also add in items for other members of your household here (like my kiddos, who consume a ridiculous amount of bananas and oat milk).
Head to the grocery store (or place a delivery/pick up order if you’re short on time). I really love grocery shopping but some weeks it just doesn't work with our schedule, and being able to do a pickup order (or $ delivery if I'm desperate) is a really awesome option to take advantage of.
Lastly, make notes on your meal plan for what needs to be prepped to make your week easy. Try to take as much heavy lifting off your plate so it'll be easier after a long work day. I like to chop up veggies like carrots and celery, make mayo and salad dressings, and make chicken or taco meat to use in salads/wraps. If you really want to be efficient, when you're unloading your grocery bags don't even put things away - immediately start rinsing, chopping, prepping so you have some things ready to go for your next meal. For example, today I made hard boiled eggs and chopped up toppings for lettuce wrap tacos while they were boiling. If you're making any kind of breakfast bake or egg muffins, it's best to make those "Sunday" night (or whatever day your Sunday is), so you're ready to start fresh on Monday morning.
I hope these tips help set you up for success on your Whole30! Let me know what works for you.