Meal Planning: The most helpful pain in my ever-developing butt

**I started writing this two Fridays ago and am just now getting around to finishing it! I’ve been incredibly busy (in a good way!) which makes this even more applicable.**

The two biggest foes I’ve faced in my weight loss journey are poor planning and poor attitude.  I could probably write seventeen posts on my attitude roller coaster so for today, I’ll just focus on the planning aspect.

There’s a girl in my office who has a homemade sign up at her desk.  It says, “Proper planning prevents poor performance.” It’s in an awful font, it’s aligned terribly and capitalized poorly but the sentiment rings true. Any time I’ve decided to wing-it with what I’m eating, I make less than ideal decisions.

Before we committed to getting healthy, I wouldn’t have any idea what I was going to have for breakfast, lunch or dinner until I was hangry (hungry + angry) and then I’d grab something in a crazed fury that rivaled a pregnant woman’s 2 AM quest for fried pickles. I rarely ate breakfast at home, would buy lunch out every day and faced with an empty refrigerator each evening, would order out or pick up a frozen pizza for supper. I realized I had a problem when the lady behind the register at Dunkin Donuts saw me in line, smiled broadly and said, “Large coconut iced coffee, cream only and a sausage egg and cheese on a croissant?” Uh… no, thank you.  Just a hot, steaming bowl of shame this morning, thanks.  But I digress.

Soooo buttery
Soooo buttery

Obviously, I had to drastically change my ways in order to reach my goals.  I’ve heard tell of people who can lose weight and never eat at home but I am not one of those people.  If faced with the decision between the grilled chicken salad and the spicy sandwich with waffle fries and Chick-Fil-A sauce, it’s no contest.  I don’t have the willpower to turn that buttery piece of heaven down in favor for something more healthy.  So what could I do instead? I planned my meals, grocery shopped for the whole week, purchased healthy snacks to keep on hand at home and at work and I bought this lunch container so I’d pack a lunch every day.


Meal planning was kind of fun at first. There are so many great ideas on Pinterest and in healthy cookbooks! But after a while, I got real tired of having to pick, shop for and cook 5-6 recipes a week.  It got more and more difficult to be creative and I got super resentful. But for me, it’s like laundry or cleaning the bathroom.  I hate doing it but if I don’t, I’ll end up on a TLC special.


So, how do I plan my meals?

  1. Make time
  2. Gather the necessary tools
  3. Assess my schedule
  4. Assess my stockpile
  5. Find recipes
  6. Put them on the calendar
  7. Make a list
  8. Shop


I like to devote about an hour on Saturday or Sunday to planning. This doesn’t include grocery shopping time.

The Tools

The internet and cookbooks, Google calendar, OneNote (or other list-making app or pen/paper)


I try to figure out what I’ve got going on this week.  What nights am I busy? Those are the perfect opportunity to make a low-prep salad or a slow cooker meal. What nights do I have free? Those are great for experimenting with more labor-intensive recipes. Do I have plans to eat out with friends? That’s a night of no cooking!


I look through the fridge, freezer and pantry to see what I’ve got on hand and then try to find recipes that use those ingredients.  That way I can keep my shopping costs down and I’m not throwing away rotten vegetables every week.


My first stop is Pinterest. I also check out a few of my favorite cooking blogs.  Pinch of Yum is a great resource for flavorful, healthy recipes and she even has an eCookbook! If I don’t see anything that strikes my fancy, I’ll pull down my Cooking Light cookbook and pick out a dish or two. Occasionally I’ll make up a recipe.  This is kind of rare but usually yields decent results.


Once I’ve chosen my recipes, I put them on the Google calendar Christian and I share.  If I found it online, I include the link in the calendar event so I’m not searching through hundreds of pins and links when it’s time to cook. If it’s something I found in a cookbook, I include the cookbook name and page number in the body of the calendar event.



Finally, I go through the recipes one by one and assess what ingredients I need to purchase.  I like to organize my list the way the grocery store is organized.  I’ll list frozen first, then dairy, then dry goods, meat, vegetables and fruit.  But that’s because I adore grocery shopping and I have my store memorized.  This isn’t a necessary step but will probably cut down on how long you spend wandering the aisles or dodging other carts. If a recipe calls for something that’s optional or I’ve got something similar, I usually omit or substitute to keep my bill low.  When making a list – don’t forget about breakfast and snacks! Lunches take care of themselves because you can just eat dinner leftovers.


I’ve found the best time to grocery shop is super early in the morning and the worst time to shop is a Sunday afternoon or right after work. I’ve also found it’s best to not bring Christian with me.  He hates it and I love it so it’s mutually beneficial to leave him behind.

Viola! I’ve now got my whole week figured out! I’ve copied this week’s menu below as an example.


Breakfast: Crunchy oat squares (3/4 c) with (1/2 c) 1% milk and blueberries

Snacks: Chobani peach yogurt and (1/4 c) unsalted, roasted nuts

Lunch: Boneless skinless chicken thighs with tomatoes and mushrooms and (1/2 c) brown rice

Dinner: White bean turkey chili*


Breakfast: Peach Melba overnight oats (minus vanilla extract and chia seeds)

Snacks: Chobani pineapple yogurt and (1/4 c) unsalted, roasted nuts

Lunch: White bean turkey chili

Dinner: Edamame and Tomato Grilled Cheese with sweet potato fries*


Breakfast: Bran flakes (3/4 c) with (1/2 c) 1% milk and blueberries

Snacks: Dannon Fit & Light yogurt and (1/4 c) unsalted, roasted nuts

Lunch: Edamame and Tomato Grilled Cheese with sweet potato fries

Dinner: Leftovers or make a salad


Breakfast: Pineapple Coconut overnight oats (minus chia seeds and honey)

Snacks: Dannon Fit & Light yogurt and (1/4 c) unsalted, roasted nuts

Lunch: leftovers or a salad

Dinner: Mediterranean Chicken Bake (minus cashews and cheese)


Breakfast: Bran flakes (3/4 c) with (1/2 c) 1% milk and blueberries

Snacks: Dannon Fit & Light yogurt and (1/4 c) unsalted, roasted nuts

Lunch: Mediterranean Chicken Bake

Dinner: Seared Indian Chicken over coconut rice


I go a little more make-it-up-as-I-go on the weekends.  I finish up leftovers and will usually make an omelette with eggs substitute for breakfast.


What helps you stay on track? Do you find all this planning too rigid? What are your go-to recipes for a quick and healthy dinner?


*Recipes I made up.  Let me know if you’re interested in any of them.


tl;dr plan ahead or eat like that garbage disposal dinosaur from The Flintstones




3 thoughts on “Meal Planning: The most helpful pain in my ever-developing butt

  1. I was going to make some rice plus vegetables the other night. Instead I had two slices of pizza and a coke 😦

    The end


    1. You can’t go wrong with pizza. It’s got all your food groups, plus it’s delicious. Sounds like your lack of meal planning was a success. Also, I doubt you could gain weight if you tried so, by all means, eat up!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s