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Secrets of Successful Meal Planning: 3 Expert Tips

Secrets of Successful Meal Planning: 3 Expert Tips

Do you have those nights where you walk into the kitchen, and it feels like complete chaos? Or those days when you are mentally exhausted and trying to figure out what is for dinner is tortuous? Or those nights when everyone is running in different directions, and you wish you could feed them healthier options, but takeout or boxed meals seem like the only answer? 

Let meal planning save the day (or night)! 

What is Meal Planning?

Meal planning is creating a plan for your meals, BUT the VegInspired Framework takes it a few steps beyond that to help you create a plan that fits your schedule and encourages you to reflect on the plan as you execute it to determine what works and what doesn’t. 

Meal planning in this fashion is important because it takes the stressful meal times and gives you a plan to make them less stressful! 

I’ve been meal planning for over eight years, and one of the biggest reasons I meal plan, even though it is only my husband and me, is that I do not enjoy having a lengthy conversation about “what’s for dinner” every night of the week. I’d rather spend that time discussing and planning our travel routes (you know we travel full-time in an RV, right?) and our adventures. 

How is our Planning Different? 

After years in the plant-based space, I recognized that many of my clients and followers were trying to meal plan but getting caught up in what I call the “taco Tuesday” strategy. They would write “tacos” on Tuesday night but not look at their calendar or commitments to see if they had the time to make tacos for dinner that night. 

Then Tuesday would roll around, and they would be too busy to cook, they’d order takeout or use something from a box, and then be frustrated or worse, beat themselves up for “not sticking to their plan.” 

The other big struggle I see is when people purchase meal plans from others; they don’t have enough say to customize the plan, and they get a generic plan that might have fantastic recipes, but they don’t fit into their schedule, or they include a bunch of ingredients they or their family won’t eat and the meal plan falls to the wayside. 

In our planning, we teach you to gather a list of inspirations or family favorites, review your upcoming week’s schedule, and then place those favorites or inspirations onto your meal plan in alignment with your calendar. Let’s walk through 3 steps to get you started today!

Secrets of Successful Meal Planning: 3 Expert Tips

Tip 1: The Inspirations! 

Meal plans work when you are excited to cook and eat what is on them! When the meals excite you, and you want to eat them, you will prepare them and enjoy the process. 

Start by creating a running list of inspirations and family favorites. These can come from living your daily life. Maybe you see a commercial for a burger and decide to add a veggie burger to the list. Perhaps you travel to a beach town and see everyone eating fish tacos, so you add tofu or cauliflower tacos to your list. Maybe you get a new cookbook and find a few recipes to try. These can also be your favorite go-to meals for which you no longer need a recipe – spaghetti and broccoli, fried rice, or baked potatoes and salad. 

Let the list be fluid, and add and delete from it as you see fit. 

Tip 2: Your Calendar!

If you don’t have the time to make the meal you planned… it won’t happen. So, using your calendar to determine your available time (and also taking into account your energy after a full day) is critical in making your meal plan work for you. 

Look at your calendar and find the places where you have time to cook and the places where time might be crunched. How can you work around that? Can you plan a meal of leftovers or cook two meals in one night so it is “heat and eat” style the next night? Let your calendar dictate when you eat meals (for example, you might not have time to cook tacos on Tuesday, but you could cook them on Monday instead). Or you might want to make chili for the big game on Thursday night, but your schedule doesn’t allow it, so can you make a pot of chili on Wednesday when you are home all afternoon? 

Using your calendar to plan meals is a great way to ensure you can execute your plan. And don’t forget to block out time to create your meal plan each week! 

Tip 3: Manage time Leftovers or A Quick Meal Prep

Hear me say this: I do not meal prep for the week! Meal planning is NOT meal prepping, but a meal plan can show you where a little prep might be needed. For example, we like to cook dry beans to use for our meals, so on my meal plan, I add “cook black beans” to the lunch plan so that I know how to turn on the black beans for our dinner recipe that night. 

While I do not have a meal prep, I do leverage leftovers for busy nights. I coach clients on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and we’ve found that those nights are best for leftovers in our household. We can heat and eat our meals efficiently before my coaching calls, and dinner clean-up is more manageable with fewer dishes. So when I write my meal plan, I put meals on Mondays and Wednesdays that I am sure will have leftovers. 

This approach saves us time and energy when my energy needs to be devoted to my clients. It also ensures I get a hearty and wholesome meal to energize me through my evening calls. 

Some examples of meals we have for leftovers are pasta with lentil red sauce and steamed broccoli, twice-baked potatoes, or tacos and tacos bowls. We might enjoy tacos with the VegInspired Taco filling on Monday and then on Tuesday, cook rice at lunchtime, and make taco bowls with the taco filling, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, salad, and avocados. 

*pro tip: note on your inspiration list the meals that yield the best leftovers for nights like this! 

Ready to Start Meal Planning? 

We have a couple of options to support you!

  1. I’ve put together the Meal Plan Essentials Kit; it is like training wheels for Meal Planning. It contains (2) videos to help you get started with your meal plan – like a guided tutorial, two done-for-you templates you can use, our meal plan framework, and our meal plan checklist. You will have your meal plan for the next week in less than 60 minutes! Download The Meal Plan Essentials Kit here for only $27. 
  2. I run the Meal Plan Accountability Club Membership every week! It is a community of like-minded, plant-focused folks planning their meals. Each week I share on a topic or perspective of meal planning to help you broaden your knowledge and experience and stretch your mind, and then we meal plan together. You leave with a meal plan for the next week in less than 60 minutes! Our goal is to help you become a confident and efficient meal planner. We meet weekly, and you can access the library of previously recorded calls and our recipe arsenal for our favorite recipes! Join Today The Meal Plan Accountability Club -3 payment options. 

Meal Planning is a Cornerstone in my Successful Plant-Based Lifestyle

Meal Planning is a cornerstone in my successful plant-based lifestyle, and I know it can be for you, too. Whether you want to go fully vegan or plant-based or eat more plants, our inclusive and supportive communities and support can help you make meal planning a regular part of your week! 

Seriously, don’t let another week go by with stressful mealtimes. Start meal planning today! 

Are you wondering if our programs are for you? Connect with Kathy on Instagram and @veginspired and ask your questions today.

Happy Meal Planning!