A Beginners Guide To Meal Planning
A well crafted plan has a special place in my heart. This applies to my nutrition as well.
Every year in March, the Dietitian of Canada organizes Nutrition Month to provide information and guidance to Canadians, making it a little easier for them to choose, eat and enjoy healthy food. I’m going to share with you my strategy for meal planning and hopefully this will make it easier for you to have a plan for your nutrition.
There are so many benefits to taking time to create a meal plan, and many ways to do it, but ultimately the goal is to find a way of meal planning that is effective and enjoyable. Before you start thinking that you don’t have time to plan your meals, I can assure you that meal planning will save time, money and reduce stress. As runners, especially, if you want to feel good in your next workout or recover after that hard session, planning your meals and snacks is a good practice.
Having a list of go-to meals is one of the easiest ways to expedite the meal planning process. Consider trying one or two new recipes and use a few old favourites to fill in the gaps. When I meal plan, I usually pick one or two trusted recipes and the rest are new recipes to try, but I’m comfortable in the kitchen and really enjoy cooking. If you wouldn’t describe yourself that way, stick to what you know.
I love food blogs and follow many of them on Instagram, so I sometimes feel overwhelmed with the amount of recipes I want to try. But if you’re less familiar with that space and want to try new recipes, finding new recipes is so simple with the plethora of food blogs.
Some of my favourite food blogs include:
- Minimalist Baker
- Oh She Glows
- My New Roots
- Eating Bird Food
- Love and Lemons
- Smitten Kitchen
- Or you could just buy Run Fast, Eat Slow and be set for awhile
Create a Place to Save Recipes
Whenever I come across a recipe that I would like to try in the future, I save it using Pocket and tag it as a recipe. You could also do this on Pinterest or just bookmark the page on your internet browser. Do whatever works for you.
Create Your Meal Calendar
Before you start choosing recipes, determine how many meals you have to make and when you’ll have leftovers. It’s a good idea to try to choose recipes that fit together so you aren’t buying a ton of ingredients. Select one, look at the ingredient list and let that help you select the next recipe, and so on.
Work Around Your Workouts
My group practices are Monday and Thursday nights and I usually get home at 7:30. One of my least favourite things to do is cook when it’s getting late and I’m hungry. These nights, I usually have leftovers or do some of the preparation before practice. Planning meals also allows you to time when you’ll have a meal heavy on carbs, protein or iron around workouts. This will help with ensuring you are fuelling properly going into works, avoid GI issues, and aid in recovery.
Check What’s on Sale
I sometimes like to organize my meals around whats on sale, especially when it comes to fish and meat. This can actually make it easier to pick what you want to make because it limits you to choosing salmon for instance, if it’s on sale. This is where meal planning can keep you within your grocery budget as well.
Make a List
Good old pen and paper work, but I use an app called Flipp to make a grocery list because it shows if the items are on sale at grocery stores in the area.
Save yourself some time and write your grocery list while you fill out your calendar–and don’t forget to jot down quantities for each ingredient. Before you head to the store take a quick inventory of what you have on hand and cross off the ingredients you don’t need to purchase.
Keep a Well Stocked Pantry
Keeping the things you use regularly on hand makes cooking and planning a lot easier, because there will be things that you don’t have to think about buying often. I keep dried lentils, beans, seeds, some dried fruit, noodles and grains stocked in my pantry.
Now, use that time you’d spend staring longingly in the fridge while completely hangry from a hard workout to cook a meal that you have the recipe and all the ingredients for!