My first triathlon will be in 13 weeks and I’ve officially hit the “Get your shit together Di, and start training properly” phase. Now for a ‘regular person’ this probably wouldn’t take much planning, there are after all tons of training plans on-line, but I am a health and fitness coach. I do personal training, and I teach multiple classes per week, all of which I have to schedule my triathlon training around. So on top of my already crazy work and life schedule I have to find time to get in at least 2 runs a week and a road cycling day. Which means I need to start getting creative with my time, and I need to start fueling myself for the upcoming training. Enter menu planning and food prep!
If you don’t meal plan I highly recommend menu planning as a way to eat healthy, stay on track, fuel workouts, save money and avoid the headache of “what’s for dinner?”. I just hate that question, don’t you? It all sounds good, so where do you start menu planning? With a sheet of paper!
Take that sheet of paper and write down each meal you’ve had in the last week, longer if you can remember. For us, we tend to have the same thing for breakfast each morning so I didn’t bother to write that down, personally I just focus on lunches, dinners, and snacks. An important thing to note here are days when you didn’t have time to cook and went out for dinner. Those are the days you’ll start to appreciate the meal prepping and menu planning!
[tweetthis]Grab this free #menuplanner and workbook to save time and money! [/tweetthis]
Then take a moment to brainstorm, we’re creating a master list of sorts here of all the different meals your family enjoys. Think about anything you’ve not had for a while…holiday foods don’t just have to be for the holidays. What different ethnic foods do you enjoy? We’re huge on Indian and Mexican food so they play a big part in our weekly menu, but don’t overlook basics like burger and fries or mac’n’cheese.
Get outside the box here. One thing I like to do is get up and go check out the fridge, and cupboards. If you never went shopping this week what could you throw together to survive? Another great tip is to check out the circulars for the week ahead, what’s on sale? What meals could you make using those sale items? Get creative!
I don’t know about you but I am a recipe hoarder. I have dozens of cook books, with a case of too many recipes and not enough time. So one dinner a week we are committing to making a meal together from a cook book. In Winter, try making different soups, in Summer it could be seasonal salads.
Download and print off the menu planner printable below. I generally print off four or five at a time, and put them on the side of the fridge.
Take 10 minutes and sit down to plan your meals for the week ahead. Use the list(s) above that you made of all the foods you enjoy, and want to try. How do I do menu planning?
- Breakfast is a staple for us. Bob has a bagel with peanut butter, and I have my oats. Usually I have a banana but in Summer I sometimes switch to Strawberries, though I have turned into a Strawberry snob and will only buy the locally grown ones. Once you have those you can’t go back! Now Summer is here I sometimes switch from oats to a Smoothie of fruit, and greens (usually lots of spinach!).
- Using the list above roughly draft lunches for the weekdays. Bob eats a packed lunch every day which is usually a wrap, and as I mentioned I tend to have similar lunches each day so for us that’s easy to plan. Menu planning doesn’t have to be hard, you’re allowed to repeat meals. Honestly if I’ve done a big meal prep most of my meals tend to be similar anyway.
- Dinner is a different beast entirely! There are days we don’t get a lot of time to prepare and cook food, so convenience and/or preparing ahead is the key. This is where menu planning really comes into it’s own for us. This is where I draw from the master list and pencil in meals. Days where I have more time I schedule things that take longer, conversely days where I have no time that’s when I schedule something that is prepped ahead (this is where the meal prep comes in, see below) or a more convenience type food that takes less time to prepare and cook,
- Snacks, I know some people don’t do snacks but we’re not those people. Honestly with my schedule I have to snack. Frankly some days I have 4 main meals due to heavy activity load, did I mention I’m training for a triathlon? So snacks are a big deal. If you don’t plan them you’ll end up eating junk. Ok, that could just be us… anyways plan those suckers! Stock up on yogurts, rice cakes, chia pudding, baby carrots and hummus, whatever, just pencil that sucker in!
- Finally the “new recipe day”. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT schedule this on a day when you are super busy! This needs to scheduled on a day when you have more time, unless it’s something you can make ahead of time. Why? Because let’s face it, new recipes will say “takes 20 minutes preparation and 40 minutes cooking” but in reality that prep can be doubled the first time you make it! You know I’m speaking the truth here! Huge #truthbomb if you’re culinary challenged – like me!
- The great thing about this is you can then use that meal plan to create a shopping list for your weekly grocery shopping. This is how a menu plan saves you time and money. To really get the most out of this, you can also plan your entrees, sides and snacks around the sales circulars. If some fruits and veggies are on sale that week get those into your menu planning in a big way. This also has the added benefit of providing variety to your diet.
- Follow the menu plan, have healthier meals, less stress and more cash! BOOM!
Lucky you I also created this printable workbook for you to save, print and work through offline! Click to save to your computer. This contains all the info above plus TWO menu weekly plans, one with the days of the week and a blank greyscale version for you to write in your own days (in case you prefer to start on your grocery shopping day!), ENJOY!
In conjunction with Menu Planning is meal preparation (prep). For those of us in fitness this conjures up images of chicken, rice and broccoli but really it’s just prepping your food ahead of time. When you prepare and cook one meal, create two (or more). Then place the extra in the fridge or freezer.
Below is my weekly Meatless Monday vlog where you can see some of my food preparation and menu planning for the upcoming week. I admit I don’t get that adventurous in the week and tend to eat the same thing for lunch most days (usually my burrito bowl), but taking an extra 20 minutes on Sunday to prepare the salad, rice and beans saves me valuable time during the weekdays. Which is great because I am usually STARVING when I get home for lunch!
I make my own waffles, chili, curry etc so doubling the batch and freezing is always a good option! When I make my burrito bowl I cook 5+ portions of rice, prep 5 salads, and 5 servings of beans. Then I have lunch for the week ahead. Not only will you save time in the long run, but you’ll save money too. Recently I was sent these Bento Boxes by Prefer Green to try. Each one has three compartments, 1/2 cup (great for beans), 1 cup (rice or quinoa) and 3 cups (salad/veggies). I’ve been using them a couple of weeks and so far they have been great for food prep and have saved me a LOT of time.
I hope you found this useful, and if you get chance implement some of the tips to save you both time, and money!
Do you menu plan, meal prep or batch cook?
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