I'm delighted to have a special treat for you today - A fun informative guest post from Kristen at Slender Kitchen, a great Weight Watchers friendly food blog. I think you'll find her advice on meal planning as helpful as I did. And if you would like a little help with your meal planning, be sure to check out the end of the post for details regarding her generous discount and giveaway!
First of all, a huge thank you to Martha for inviting me to talk about one of my favorite things today – meal planning. I love talking about meal planning because it was the "thing" that finally changed things for me. Not only was meal planning the key to my personal weight loss, it has also cured the dreaded nightly empty stare into the fridge waiting for dinner to jump out. I love it.
First, let me share a little of my story. I'm Kristen and I blog and meal plan over at Slender Kitchen. If we traveled back to ten years ago, I was 25 pounds overweight and I couldn't cook anything that didn't come in a box. Seriously.
I had also tried countless diets, lost and gained weight over and over again, and just couldn't seem to find anything that worked for me. But at the same time, I couldn't spend another day feeling the way I did. Something had to change.
To make a really long story short, I decided to join Weight Watchers and I loved it almost immediately. I started losing weight the first week, could still enjoy meals out with friends and family, and it felt like something I could stick to long term.
However there was one problem, I was living off Lean Cuisines and Smart Ones meals, 100 calorie snack packs, and anything low calorie and frozen. Outside of fruits and the occasional fresh vegetable, it was all packaged foods. I couldn't be bothered to learn to cook or calculate points. And as you might expect – this got boring and expensive.
So I set out to learn to cook. Luckily for me – I instantly fell in love with preparing meals, finding new recipes, and learning new techniques. I started eating real food and really began to notice a change in not only how my clothes felt, but more importantly how my body felt when I started feeding it real food.
However as you may have guessed, I still had one problem! I wasn't meal planning so when I got busy, which happened often, I reverted back to my old habits. So much like cooking, I set out to learn to meal plan and am excited to share some of the things I have learned with you today.
Meal Planning 101
- Set Your Schedule: Whether you decide to meal plan weekly or monthly, it is important to set up your meal plan schedule and dedicate time to find recipes and create your plan.
This should also include your shopping day(s) so you can make grocery lists. Personally I like to meal plan weekly. I create my plan Saturday mornings (although I save recipe ideas throughout the week) and shop on Sundays.
- Create Theme Nights: Starting each week from scratch can make meal planning take forever, so pick theme nights to speed things up and limit your recipe choices.
For example, I like to make a slow cooker meal weekly for Sunday dinner and use those leftovers for lunches throughout the week. Monday is Pasta night and Friday is takeout food at home – burgers, pizzas, etc.
I also always include one seafood dish, one chicken dish, one beef dish, and one pork dish weekly. This speeds up meal planning immensely since I know what recipes to look for.
Some ideas for theme nights could include – Taco Tuesdays, Grilling Night, Meatless Monday, Friday Fish, Pizza Night, Sunday Slow Cooker, etc.
- Create an Easy System to Save Recipes: One of the best ways to speed up meal planning is to have a go-to place full of recipes that you and your family will enjoy. That way you don't spend hours searching online. Pinterest is a great place for this.
You could also use a binder at home, Evernote, or virtually any system that makes it quick and easy for you to find a recipe. Personally I use Pinterest and then have a category for each theme above – slow cooker, pasta, chicken, seafood, beef, pork, and takeout inspired.
- Build Your Calendar: Now you want to build your calendar/meal planner. This can take any format – it just needs to be something that works for you.
For example, for a quick dinner meal planner, simply fold a paper in half the long way. On once side write your five meals and on the other side build your shopping list.
I like to do this by categories for quicker shopping. Then save those sheets in a folder or binder for easy access in the future. Print out, write out, or save recipe links as well for easy preparation. You could also do this electronically in Word, Excel, or Notepad.
- Anticipate: This is one of the most important parts of successful meal planning – anticipation. First – be realistic about how many meals you will prepare each week. If you always eat out twice a week, don't plan for those meals.
Additionally, consider your schedule. If Wednesdays are always incredibly busy, make Wednesday Healthy Pizza & Salad night and use healthy store bough pizza dough for a quick meal.
- Monthly Freezer Meals: Since we can never fully plan, I like to make 2-4 healthy freezer meals at the start out each month that I can pull out in a moment's notice.
Usually this includes things like soups/stews, enchiladas, lasagna, stuffed peppers, and other freezer friendly options. Then when I know a hectic week is coming I can plan on these or pull it out when needed.
- Start Slow: Perhaps the most important tip for beginning to meal plan is to start slow!
If you have never meal planned or followed a meal plan before, don’t start out by planning your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It will take you hours and hours to create the meal plan.
Instead start out by planning for 3 dinners and breakfast weekly. See how that goes and then add on as you begin to get better (and more efficient) at meal planning.
Slender Kitchen Meal Plans – Weight Watchers® Friendly
Love the idea of meal planning but don't want to do all the work? Since I know that many people simply don't have the time to create their own healthy meal plans, we now offer them at Slender Kitchen.
Each healthy weekly meal plan comes full of delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The meal plans come in regular, vegetarian, and low carb options.
All feature complete nutritional information, Weight Watchers PointsPlus®, and categorized shopping lists! There are also two bonus fallback recipes weekly in case there is something you don't like in the menu.
*Points® calculated by WW. *PointsPlus® and SmartPoints® calculated by Simple Nourished Living; Not endorsed by Weight Watchers International, Inc. All recipe ingredients except optional items included in determining nutritional estimates. SmartPoints® values calculated WITHOUT each plan's ZeroPoint Foods (Green plan, Blue plan, Purple plan) using the WW Recipe Builder.
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