Eating on Your Own is Hard Work!
Let’s face it, at the end of a long, hard day, is there anyone who sings with joy when grabbing
half a red cabbage,
the last two sprouting radishes,
a lonely carrot,
and a tough brussel sprout from the fridge,
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And will that be fish, chicken, lentils or chickpeas,
And does anyone pull out their chef’s knife and chopping board, wash, trim, peel, chop and zest,
Next up: hauling out pots and pans,
Then there’s the actual cooking, eating, and clean up.
All. For. One.
And then you get to do it all over again, tomorrow, the next day, and the next.
Or . . . you don’t.
When I heard about meal planning, I discovered a game-changer.
The irony is not lost here, because, at first glance, I thought meal planning was not that convenient.
I was already busy!
So, if you’re thinking the same thing, I get it!
Believe it or not, a meal plan is worth the effort.
Why meal planning is worth your effort.
Knowing the ‘why’ behind a lifestyle change makes it easier to stay the distance and work out the kinks. And believe me, I found some kinks that clanked at times.
Personal challenges and the occasional stubborn habit took a pounding.
All at once eating healthy became, ‘hard work.’
So, yes, I’m suggesting yet another ‘to-do’ on top of your already busy day. But, here are three big reasons why meal planning works so well.
1: Saving money
There are fewer groceries to buy because no food is wasted!
No longer are you tossing out forgotten limp carrots, rotten herbs, or sprouting potatoes because meal planning uses them all!
You may pay a little more for whole food, but your ingredients go further. For example, one pound of extra-lean ground beef might cost $5.50 but you get four massive patties out of it.
Add a whisked egg, a small handful of stale breadcrumbs, herbs or spices, and your burgers are voted the best ever!
Meanwhile, one Big Mac costs $4 and there are no leftovers.
There is no need to call for delivery or shop for frozen boxed meals!
Meal planning has your meals already stacked and labelled in the fridge or freezer, low in salt, sugar and fats, high in fibre and flavour.
Now all you do is heat, eat, and clean up!
2: Eating healthier
We all know convenient food is ‘conveniently’ loaded with empty calories.
Empty calories are those that our bodies do not want or need. They are hard to digest, convert to tummy fat, and are made to taste good with too much salt, hidden sugars, and fats.
Healthy eating means choosing whole food that requires preparation such as washing, peeling, cutting, and perhaps cooking carrots, onions, or sweet potatoes.
Whole food has no additives, food colouring, or preservatives. No maltodextrin, hydrolyzed soy protein, silicon dioxide, disodium inosinate, or any other non-food sounding ingredients.
You will eat healthier because meal planning uses time-savers to help you cook ‘real’ meals with real food, from scratch.
3: The ‘losing weight’ connection
If you read no further, this should be your most important takeaway.
The goal of this type of meal planning is to make sure a balanced meal is ready when you need to eat.
Meal planning helps to avoid the dangers of snacking while you decide what you are going to haul out of that fridge and then what you are going to do with it.
Nine times out of ten, those two cookies not only took the edge off your appetite but the urge to eat healthily.
Meal planning is your absolute best friend: it won’t accept your excuses – because there are none.
This is one powerful tool for losing weight.
How to Make Meal Planning Your Best Friend
When I’m alone for a few days, I now make meal planning my closest and best friend.
I never used to and would snack my way through the day.
Afterwards, I felt sluggish and guilty but reminded myself, I was too busy to stop and make a real meal.
I now understand the benefits of meal planning.
Let’s look at how meal planning helps you
- stop eating out or eating out of a box
- reduce your grocery bill and,
- make nutritious meals just as quick and easy.
I cannot believe I had not tried meal planning sooner!
Are you ready to go through a typical day?
Meal Planning For Two Quick, Hot Breakfasts
Breakfast is one of the hardest meals to make ahead of time. The struggle starts with the convenience of carbohydrates.
Do you remember when you were a kid?
Cereal and milk or toast before school and over the weekend, pancakes with maple syrup.
Today we know so much more about nutrition. There is a scientific link between refined carbohydrates, sugar, no fibre, and Type 2 diabetes. We understand carbohydrates convert to sugar, and how over time, our pancreas works harder, our blood spikes and we crave more sugar.
Until our pancreas is exhausted. And we have Type 2 diabetes.
If you need to watch your sugar levels try meal-planning an omelette. Here’s how it works.
Meal Plan #1: Making Your Own Omelette
The night before:
– Whisk 2 eggs with a splash of milk in a small bowl.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
– Chop 1/4 c leftover cooked vegetables and fresh herbs.
Place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
– Grate or slice your choice of cheese. Here, I’ve used parmesan slices.
Place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Now with some practice, you can pull this together in the morning almost as fast as it takes to brew a cup of coffee.
On the morning of:
Add a knob of butter or a small splash of coconut oil to your medium-sized (8″) pan. Warm your fry pan on medium heat.
Next, add vegetables and stir until heated.
Add eggs, herbs, and cheese.
Wait until the cheese has melted, and the omelette puffs up in places.
Fold in either half,
Cook another 30 seconds to ensure the egg is cooked.
Serve on a warm plate garnished with fresh herbs.
Planning ahead helps you create a delicious, nutritious, high-protein, low-carb breakfast in minutes.
*Tip: to reduce the chance of a smoking pan, I warm up my fry pan on medium heat first, then add oil or butter. I also use coconut oil over butter for additional health benefits.
Meal Plan #2 Making Your Own Pancakes
For morning speed have your pre-mixed dry ingredients stored and ready in an airtight container or re-sealable bag.
Now, simply pour out what you need. As a rough guide, 1 cup will make 4 average sized pancakes (3″x5″)
-Whisk together an egg with 3/4c milk, and a splash of vanilla essence if you are watching your sugar intake or a splash of maple syrup.
Add to dry ingredients.
– Stir until blended.
– Let the mixture rest a minute or two and allow baking soda and powder time to work, especially if you are using heavier flours (almond and coconut).
– Warm your frypan on medium heat before adding coconut oil or butter. Spoon out your mixture and cook until golden brown on both sides.
Serve with jam, honey, or fruit such as sliced bananas or washed blueberries.
Wrap any cooled left-overs and store in the fridge for another time.
Tip: my first pancake almost never turns out right.
I think it’s either because the ingredients need a little more rising time or the pan temperature isn’t quite right. If this is the same for you, try cooking one small pancake first as a test.
Tip: With my All-Clad non-stick pans I use less coconut oil than in other fry pans.
Pre-mixed Pancake Recipe
2 c all-purpose flour. I use Italian Tipo OO flour.
1 c almond flour
1 c coconut flour
3T baking powder
2t baking soda
3T sugar – optional. I use maple syrup later
1t salt – optional
1/3c chia seeds – optional
Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until well blended.
Store in an airtight container.
I keep my premixed flour labelled and in the fridge.
At times I’ve substituted 1c almond flour with ½c hazelnut flour, 1/4c chia seeds, and 1/4c hemp seeds for extra fibre and protein.
Planning Lunch To-Go
Lunch is by far, the easiest to plan for.
Perhaps a homemade lentil soup or a rustic sandwich, with a salad and sliced fruit Lunch is ready.
I love adding my own home-grown microgreens to everything – they’re inexpensive and SO easy to grow!
Include thin-sliced grilled chicken, chickpeas or a hardboiled egg for extra protein and to help you get past the 3 pm hump.
A balanced salad has flavour, is full of nutrition, and never boring when it hits all the senses we crave.
Think; crunchy almonds, salty olives, sour lemon juice, spicy mustard microgreens and sweet apple pieces.
Just remember to bring your dressing on the side!
I have to agree, suppers are much harder to plan, but the benefits still outweigh your efforts.
Remember you’re also planning tomorrow’s lunch while you wash, peel and dice vegetables. The chopping board, peeler, and knife are already dirty.
Just add an extra carrot to your workload and lunch for tomorrow is on its way!
3 obstacles to meal planning
It’s true, meal planning has it’s negative side as well. Let’s take a look at them.
– Cooking several meals at once costs more money. You need a bigger piece of meat, more chicken, fish, chickpeas, lentils or tofu.
– And you need variety – no one wants to eat beef chilli 6 days in a row.
– Then you need freezer space. This was my biggest mountain to climb before I could sing any praises around meal planning
So I want to share a little trick I’ve learned over the years. You don’t have to plan and freeze a whole meal for this system to work. And anyway, who has a huge chest freezer today?
Instead of making, for example, a vegetable lasagna to cut and freeze, consider preparing only the sauce in bulk.
Here’s how you do it: make your slow cooker work for you.
Make a batch of spicy, garlicky tomato herb sauce while you’re at work to bring out the flavours. When you get home, cool the sauce and freeze in resealable bags.
Let’s go back to the vegetable lasagna. All you do now is your frozen spicy tomato sauce.
Spiralize half of a zucchini, add some extra vegetables and you have a healthy vegetarian lasagna that tastes just as good – perhaps even better!
I also slow cook my stocks the same way. However, if freezer space is very limited, I add one more step before freezing.
In a large pot, I boil down the stock to at least half its volume. The stock darkens as it concentrates. I make a reminder note on the bag with a permanent marker and when I use the stock, I know to add the same amount of water back in.
Stock is ideal for simmering chickpeas, lentils, or rice. It’s also the best for making a quick, low salt, low-fat soup. Just add fresh herbs, spices, onion, fresh ginger and garlic and you have a different meal.
Include a hearty fresh salad or steamed vegetables and supper is served!
How to plan a variety with soups
Large servings of soup give you quick and healthy meals for days. However, if you’ve made a cauldron of split pea soup, after day 2, meal planning doesn’t seem like the brightest of ideas.
Because soup keeps longer in the freezer than any other food, you’ll find them easy to make and look after. The only thing wrong with this idea is – you need variety.
How do you get variety from the beginning? It’s easy.
Simply make one large batch of stock.
When it’s ready, drain the stock and split the volume in half. One half goes into a large pot and the other in your slow cooker.
Prepare your soups according to each recipe then cool, package, label and freeze your portions.
As your supplies dwindle, make another batch for even more variety.
Repeat and over time you will have a variety of soups.
*Tip: Some people recommend cooking your food in a slow cooker overnight. I tried this and don’t recommend it. The unfamiliar smell of food cooking woke me up several times.
Did you know slow cookers now come with Bluetooth capacity? These are the perfect gift for caregivers who also hold a full-time job.
Imagine controlling your parent’s slow cooker through an app on your phone then call them when it’s ready!
Or, turn the slow cooker down to warm before your hungry teenagers get home from school!
Here’s how the Bluetooth system works:
Want a meal that requires cooking on ‘high’ for an hour, then ‘low’ for four hours?
Set your phone alarm and when it goes off, open the slow cooker app and dial your slow cooker down.
Need to start cooking at 2 pm so your meal is ready the moment you get home?
Open the app on your phone and turn your slow cooker on.
Stuck in traffic and going to be late?
Open the app on your phone and turn your slow cooker from ‘low’ to ‘warm.’
I hope this post has inspired you to try meal planning in order to quickly and easily set your diet plan on the right track.
There is nothing better than healthier, home-cooked meals with all of the convenience of frozen dinners and take-out.
Losing weight still means careful ingredient choices but it is the balance of good health with a busy schedule that makes meal planning work so well.
Do you have a tip that works for you?
~ LEAVE A COMMENT ~
I work at home and find cooking for one at lunch time to be the downfall to my healthyish diet. I love your prep at night ideas – a quick omelette or pancakes would be just as good for lunch!
This article was so full of information! Thanks for the tips and ideas — as a single woman, eating healthy is a chore. Implementing your ideas may make things easier.
You are so right, Sarah – eating alone is hard work. Hope you find a method that works for you.
Love your idea, Cori, I haven’t made them for lunch. However, some days those leftovers have been welcome by lunchtime with a salad and piece of cheese.