Meal Planning Made Simple

I had a nice long talk with a client last week about the work I’m doing on developing a monthly coaching program to help people with meal planning. (It’s so cool, y’all. So cool. You’re going to love it.)

And as we were talking I gave her some insight into some of the things that would be right for her. I thought I would share a little bit of her story and some of the problem solving we did to give her some bite-sized things she could start doing in her life, right away, that would make a difference in her daily life.

We’ll call her “R”. For Rock Star.

R is a mom of two with a busy schedule. She is proficient in the kitchen, and has a lot of “go to” recipes that she uses often. Her current meal planning style is what I call On the Fly, which means that she goes to the store, buys what’s appealing, and then opens her fridge when meal time is approaching and just makes whatever. The main problems R noted were that what she makes isn’t always in keeping with her vision of healthy, and the things she knows how to make that she views as healthy are time consuming or require advanced preparation. She also has concerns about her children not liking or eating the things she makes when cooking “healthy”, and that one of her children has an aversion to most vegetables.

Here were some of my recommendations:

Recognize that there is no one right answer. All of us have elements of similarity in our situations, our approaches, our baggage, and our health concerns. But no one is the same. Thinking that there is one meal plan or fitness schedule or health coach or app or pill or system out there that will “fix” you is going to lead you down a road of paying a lot of money and spending a lot of time with not a whole lot of results. You’re a complex individual. You’re awesome and beautiful and so rad. And you require conscious thought and careful selection regarding which methods are going to work for you. There’s nothing wrong with trial and error. It’s part of the deal to some extent. But if you do some deep diving into yourself and figure out more quickly than any coach or therapist what your road blocks are, you can come to terms with the fact that there is no one way to get around all of them. You’ll discover there are multiple elements to address. And then you actively seek the things that are most likely to work for you.

Once you’ve breathed into the fact that there’s work to do around meal planning, do this:

Define your core values. There are lots of variations, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Budget-Friendly/Cost-Effective
  • Organic/Chemical-Free
  • Specialty/Gourmet/Fancy
  • Homemade/Culinary exploration/Learning to Cook
  • Weight Control (Management, loss, or gain)
  • Management of illness/disease (diabetes, thyroid issues, depression, etc.)
  • Convenient/Quick/Easy/Simple

Rank those in order of most important to you right now (not in the future, not in the past. Right now.) Write that down. Add in anything else that you can think of outside of my short list, too.

Make sure that all of your purchases and choices are in line with your values. All of the things that reside in your refrigerator and pantry should satisfy those core values. For example, if your values at this moment are Weight Loss, Organic/Chemical-Free, and convenient, you may load your refrigerator with cut, prepackaged veggies, individual servings of hummus, and cooked and sliced chicken breast. If you’re more budget-conscious, you may plan to make all of your meals at home. If you have to do an overhaul of your food storage, so be it. Go ahead and donate what you have to a food pantry or your local homeless camp and go buy things that you love that will keep you living within those values you set for yourself. And make restaurant selections that align with your values. And from there, food choices from the menu. And even consider munchie selections at parties.

Don’t pretend you have a value if you don’t. Don’t say Organic is the thing when really you’ve got $$$ on your mind, or if convenience is key, then culinary exploration may be outside of what’s reasonable. It can be easy to confuse your values with things you wish you could do. Being thoughtful and honest about where you are is critical to this process. So be thoughtful, and be honest.

Determine your meal planning style, and make peace with it. Changing how we feel most comfortable when it comes to planning, creating, and consuming meals takes a long time and a lot of work. If you have the time and discipline to do that right now…great! But most of us don’t. And when you’re making changes in real time, like, outside of a sabbatical where you are working solely on this part of your life, you can get easily overwhelmed with what you’re supposed to be doing, and often come to a grinding halt when something doesn’t pan out to be doable. Instead, start where you are. Answer the following question: “What does meal planning look like for you right now?” Write that down. You know what you’re doing now. You’ll also know why you’re doing it that way. Write that down. And you’ll also know what’s not working about it (write that down, too.) Once you have those three things, you’ll know what you’re doing, what works, and what doesn’t work. Leave the stuff that works. We’ll explore the stuff that doesn’t in a sec.

Give yourself permission to be where you are on the path. When we make a decision to commit to a change, it’s easy to feel like we want to get to the end right away. And to get discouraged. And to want to give up. And while all of that is normal, it’s no fun. Giving yourself permission to be where you are, even if it’s not your definition of perfect, can remove the shame associated with not being “there” yet. Ideally, no one is “there” yet, because we’re always striving to do more and be better. But we are where we are, and feeling bad about that just makes us want to throw in the towel and eat cake.

When it comes to the stuff that’s not working, you may need help to identify some strategies to get you around and through it. That’s where someone like me comes in. And if you want to work with me, I’d love to hear from you. I am also looking for individuals to help me in the beta testing of my program that will take everything you read just now and combine it with the same approach to movement, and add in all the benefits of 1:1 coaching support. You're going to love it. Take a second to email me and let me know if you'd like to join this group of beta testers, and I'll send you more information. You won't be mad that you did.