The best way to manage food allergies, meals for weight loss, lunch packing, and just all your meals in general is to plan and prepare your food ahead of time. There are a couple of ways I accomplish this.
What is it? Meal planning is simply making a plan for what you’ll eat, instead of deciding on the spur of the moment what you’ll eat. It can involve writing down a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks, and getting the food ready. Or, it can be as simple as deciding what you’ll eat for dinner each night and making sure you have the ingredients on hand.
Why do it? It may seem like too much extra work at first, but if you get in the habit of planning and prepping some food once a week, you’ll be surprised how much less time you spend during the week making your meals. You’ll have less dishes to wash, too!
Here are the reasons I follow a meal plan:
For weight control – When I need to lost weight, I know the best way to make that happen is to follow a meal plan. It’s so much less stress to make the decision of what and how much I’ll eat only once that week, instead of deciding at each meal – that will make you crazy!
For food allergies – I know from over a decade of experience that following a plan is the best way to manage food allergies. And if you have some basic meals, snacks, and treats prepared and stored in your freezer, then you can be prepared for all those times when people bring out food at a gathering that you are allergic to. If you have brought something of your own, then no one needs to feel awkward!
To save money – You can make your weekly meal plan based on what’s on sale at the grocery store, and it will save you quite a bit of money that way. I look at the grocery ads to see what meat and produce is on sale, and use that as my starting point for deciding what we’ll eat that week.
To eat healthy – If you want to eat healthier by cutting down on meat, eating more vegetables, or eating less junk food – well, it’s not just going to happen by itself! You need to make a plan and follow it, my friend!
Time saver – You pretty much know by now that I love to create recipes, make bento, and otherwise be creative with food. But I have a confession to make… I HATE doing dishes! I have found that one of the best fringe benefits of following a meal plan is that there are less dishes to wash during the week! You definitely have a big load to do when you do your food prep for the week, but after that, there are a lot less dishes to wash. Especially if you plan some crockpot dinners, or frozen casserole type of dinners that you just have to heat and eat. There’s nothing like going to bed at night knowing that your kitchen is clean 😀
Healthy Meal Plans
I’ve decided to post once or twice a month an actual meal plan that my family follows, so you can see how we go about it. Here are the links to what I have so far:
Weekly Food Prep
Hand in hand with a meal plan is following that up with a Weekly Food Prep session. I like to schedule mine for roughly the same time each week so nothing will interfere with me getting the food prepped to meet our health goals for the week. Over the years, my schedule has changed quite a bit, and I adapt my Weekly Food Prep to meet our family’s needs. Currently I split up my meal prepping and do some on Saturday, and finish up on Monday – that’s just what works currently, but I’m sure that will change, because that’s life!
Check out these posts that give you an overview of my process:
Recipes that work great for Food Prep:
Snacks & desserts
Lunches & Dinners
Food prep tools:
The right kitchen tools can be a big help with weekly food prep. You can find the things I use and recommend in my Store. Just look in the Useful Tools, Food Storage, and Appliances categories.
Back in 2012, I came up with this great idea to make it even easier for our family to eat our vegetables. Since then, there has rarely been a time that our fridge did not have a well stocked salad bar along with a crisp, cold bowl of salad greens to go with it. Many times it has saved the day when I was in a hurry to pack up lunches but didn’t have time to chop up vegetables. And there were some nights that my dinner plans just didn’t work out, but some take-out food along with our salad bar could make a really nice meal! Read more about how I make it here:
I wrote quite a lot on the subject of my salad bar, with lots of recipes and other salad-related food prep tips in my book, Fresh Lunch Salads.
You can buy it right here:
How I Pack My Cooler
I like to pack my snacks and small meals to take with me when I’m out of the house. It helps me stick to my diet, and helps with the food allergies that we deal with in our family to have some healthy snacks with us that are safe to eat. I designed my own mini cooler that’s also a purse organizer, which you can read about in these posts:
When I plan my meals, I also plan for snacks as well. It’s a big help to keep our fridge stocked with healthy snacks that are ready to grab and eat. Please visit my Healthy Snacks page to see all my ideas for snacks, plus a free download that you can keep on your fridge.