3 Meal Planning Tips for Beginners

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As a wellness coach, meal planning is something that comes up quite often with my coaching clients. Most people want to make healthier choices and figure out how to set themselves up for success. Planning and its big sister prepping are intended to be strategies to help streamline the decision making process and cut down on time spent on meals during busier days. 

That being said, there is an incredible amount of information on this topic out there and as with anything else, too much information, or strategies that are too complicated can lead to an effect known as "analysis paralysis"- there is so much information that you don't know where to begin...so you don't.

Meal planning has many benefits and for me, the most important one is saving time in the evenings. If I have a busy day, I don't like having to decide what to have for dinner at the last minute. Chris, my husband, is really talented at throwing ingredients together, but I don't have as much practice. (Did I mention how lucky I am to have a partner who cooks amazing vegan food?!) It makes it much easier to have a plan and be prepared with all of the ingredients I'll need. In addition to saving time, I believe that meal planning saves money. Cooking at home is usually much less expensive than eating out. If I have a meal plan and the ingredients, I am much less likely to go out to eat. (And see Tip #2 below if you find yourself running out of time to cook due to a varied schedule)

The three tips I'm sharing with today are extremely basic- and this is the point. To give you a place to start if meal planning is something you're curious about.

Tip #1- Break Up The Week

In my experience, it has always been easier to meal plan for a few days at a time, rather than try to look at the whole entire week all at once. If I'm meal planning on a Sunday, I will usually meal plan through Wednesday evening. Then Wednesday, I will plan through the weekend. Fridays are usually the "takeout" night in our house (with delicious vegan Chinese food as the default) so that helps break up the planning even more. Breaking up the week into 2 sets of "mini-planning" makes the process a lot less overwhelming. It does require a potential second trip to the grocery store, but you aren't buying as many things, so hopefully you're out more quickly.

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Tip #2- Have an Easy Backup Plan on Hand

Sometimes I will plan on these awesome dinners where I am trying a new recipe that might take a bit longer than usual to prepare. I also know that there are days where plans go awry, schedules get changed, and suddenly you don't have the hour you had set aside to make dinner. This is why I always have easy meal ingredients like pasta*, veggie burgers**, and salad fixings on hand. As I mentioned above, this will help to prevent an unplanned trip out to eat.

* I like the Organic Black Bean Spaghetti from Explore Cuisine- 25 grams of protein/serving!

** Another household favorite is the Morningstar Roasted Garlic and Quinoa burgers

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Tip #3- Leftovers are Your Friends

99% of the time I plan on leftovers for lunch. It's so much easier to make a little extra of dinner the night before and pack it up in a container to grab the next day. Whether you work from home, in an office, or out in the field, it's really helpful to not have to worry about cobbling something together for lunch. Sometimes Chris will also take leftover quinoa, rice, and/or veggies from a previous meal to make a nice stir-fry with tofu. Using what you have in your fridge also reduces food waste and saves money.

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Do you have any meal planning tips that have helped you to be successful?

How to Map Out Your 2018 Goals

Happy New Year!

I am so excited for the 365...no, 363 brand new days that lay before us. I have a feeling that 2018 is going to be the start of an amazing journey. This could be due to the fact that this is the first time I have mapped out my goals and created an action plan for success.

In the past I've made a lot of vague goals/resolutions/intentions but never supported them with a specific plan of action. This year, I set aside time and energy to put pen to paper and really get clear on what I wanted to accomplish. My word for 2018 is CREATE and I know it's going to take planning and preparation to execute on all of the fun things I have brewing in my brain.

Here are the steps I took to map out my 2018 goals. It's my hope that this will be helpful if you are still in the planning stages and/or aren't sure where to begin.

Create Your Ultimate Goals List

Before organizing anything, I simply started with a blank notebook page to write down all my goals. The idea is to get everything out of your head and on to a sheet of paper (or a digital document if you aren't a fan of analog). Try to be as specific as possible here. I like to use the S.M.A.R.T acronym- goals should be

Specific,

Measurable,

Achievable,

Realistic and,

Timely.

Organize Your List

Once I had all of my goals written out, I sorted them into categories. I ended up with 4 - personal, professional, physical, and financial. (I really wish this had been 4 P's. Does anyone use the word pecuniary anymore?)

Here are my actual 2018 goals, organized into each category.

Create a Mind Map of Each Category 

In this step you will reverse engineer your goals. The bonus? You get to imagine yourself as already having achieved them! 

First, you'll create a large circle with the category in the middle.

Then you will create branches with each of your main goals. 

For each level after the main goal, ask yourself the question "What will I need to do to be successful with this?" The answers will become the next branches.

Continue creating branches (or action steps) until you feel like you can't go any further.

Here is one of my Physical goals mapped out, as an example-

Plan Your Action Steps Into Your Daily Schedule 

One you have a mind map for each category, you should end up with a detailed plan on how to accomplish each of your goals. At this point, it is important to make room for them in your daily routine.

The branches of your goal will become the action steps- in other words, these will be the things you need to do daily/weekly/monthly to be successful. In the Fencing example I gave above, I would need to plan when exactly my lessons will be and choose the open fencing sessions I will attend so that I can build them into my schedule.

This whole process will take some time, so allow yourself a quiet afternoon with a nice cup of coffee or tea to get started.

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

P.S.- Check out last year's blog on

Setting Intentions for the New Year