I spent a good chunk of my day yesterday planning out all the dinners that I intend to make (and blog about) this week. It’s a time-consuming process, but it’s fun, I enjoy it, and most importantly, it really helps me stay on track. I am following the new Weight Watchers Freestyle program, which offers a lot of freedom and flexibility, but I have found that if I’m not prepared, I tend to revert back into bad habits when I get busy. Sound familiar? A lot of us are in the same boat…I know. So I rely heavily on meal planning. By meal planning, I feel in control, prepared, and am much more easily able to stay within my Points range. It’s also a great way to try out new foods and recipes!
Love the idea of meal planning, but don’t want to do all the work?
As fun and as helpful as meal planning can be, I know that many people simply don’t have the time to create their own healthy meal plans. If this sounds like you, my friend Kristin at Slender Kitchen has put together an AMAZING Weight Watchers meal planning system that is ideal!
Every nutritious and delicious weekly meal plan comes full of fabulous recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are a lot of meal plan options, and all of her plans feature complete nutritional information, Weight Watchers Smart Points®, and categorized shopping lists! Stop by her site and explore all of the incredible features that come with a meal plan membership.
If you are thinking about giving meal planning a try on your own, I’m sharing a few tips I’ve learned along the way that can really help.
MEAL PLANNING TIPS
1. Start Simply: This is the most important tip I can offer. With so many tools and info available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. And if you get overwhelmed, chances are, you won’t be able to stick with it. If you have never meal planned before, I recommend not trying to plan out a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. It’ll take you a long time. Instead, try planning out maybe just 3-4 dinners a week. Then, SLOWLY, add on as you become more efficient at meal planning.
2. Consider Your Schedule: Before you begin planning your meals, always review your schedule and anticipate any nights that you may be eating out so that you won’t plan any meals for those nights. Additionally, factor in how busy your days will be. For example, Wednesdays are my crazy days, and I have little time or energy to cook a complicated recipe, so I always plan something super fast and easy. On days that are a little more laid back, I’ll try a recipe that’s more involved and takes more time to prepare.
3. Set Your Schedule: Once you’ve considered any scheduled events that may interrupt your usual routine, the next step is to dedicate the time to create your meal plan schedule, and to search through recipes to select for it. It’s also important to schedule your shopping day and make your grocery lists. I like to save recipes throughout the week, then do my planning on Sundays, and then I grocery shop on Monday and Tuesday (I go to a different store each day).
4. Create Themes: To help make my meal planning move along a little quicker, I try to set “themes” for certain days or meals. For example, Meatless Mondays for any vegetarian dishes I want to try, Slow Cooker Sundays, Friday Fish Night…you get the idea. This exceedingly speeds up my meal planning, because I know what recipes I need to look for.
5. Freezer Meals: Since my schedule can often change at a moments notice, I always cook a few freezer-friendly meals that I can use when I need to get a meal on the table – FAST. These have been a lifesaver for me on many occasions. The foods I find that work easiest for the freezer are foods like casseroles, soups, chili, burritos, and pasta sauce.