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One of the most important things you can do when on a weight loss or maintenance journey is to meal plan. I am a die-hard believer in planning out your week and doing as much as possible ahead of time to make it work. My meal planning techniques are pretty straightforward:
I have hundreds of recipes saved on Pinterest that I’ve collected over time. Some have become “go-to” recipes for me, others have turned out to be just “meh”. I use this as my starting point. I determine the meals I want for dinners throughout the week then build the rest of the days around them; moving things around so all days are balanced.
Build a Grocery List
I take all the recipes and meals and put the ingredients in a spreadsheet. I then pull out duplicates and anything I know I already have in the house (here is where a good Pantry inventory comes in) and finalize my grocery list for the week by store. Note: I add in anything that is not meal-related once the food list is complete.
Go Grocery Shopping
I do my grocery shopping on Sunday mornings, usually going to Trader Joe’s and at least one local grocery store chain. If I need anything from Whole Foods I go there during the workweek because there is a huge Whole Foods next to my office.
Organize and Store Groceries
I put away all foods that I’m not going to use for prepping, with the exception of any perishables. I only take perishables out of the refrigerator/freezer when they are needed.
Meal Planning and Prep for the Week
I determine which meals can be made in advance and which cannot. My goal is to get at least the first three days of the week’s lunches ready, relying on leftovers for the remaining two days of the workweek. I also prep dinner for Monday ahead of time, usually making some sort of fish on Mondays so I set it to marinate ahead of time. If I’m making a tofu dish, I’ll press the tofu overnight using a Tofu Press so it’s ready the next day. If I’m planning on having like baked ziti or lasagna early in the week, I’ll make it ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until the designated day.
NOTE: I like making things like baked ziti or lasagna or other casserole-type dishes as they make good lunches for later in the week.
The last thing I do is prep fruit and veggies for the week. I wash grapes and put them in individual serving bags for the entire week. I’ll chop up watermelon or pineapple and portion it out as well. I chop up onions, peppers and mushrooms for my husband to use in his morning omelets. I’ll chop up onions, cucumbers, and other salad vegetables to have ready to throw into a salad for lunch or dinner. I don’t like to prep anything that will wilt or turn brown or other funny colors. I save those tasks for right before I need those particular items.
Store Meals and Snacks
I have dozens of individual containers in a variety of sizes for lunches, including 2 ounce containers for dressings and dips. I portion everything out in those or Ziploc bags so they are ready to grab and go when packing lunch bags in the mornings.
Best of luck and get to planning!