Meal planning can be such a difficult routine to achieve, but it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do in your day-to-day life for your overall health and your wallet. One of the ways that I personally am able to plan my meals is by using a meal planner (you can download my free meal planner if you subscribe to my blog at the bottom of this post!), and these tips I’ve learned over years of experience in building a Cheaper, Healthier Grocery List.
Of course, if you’re still in need of help for some more healthy, wholesome, everyday meal ideas, I’ve got you covered! I connected with one of Toronto’s top nutritionists, Rachel Bies, to get her take on meal planning, batch cooking and grocery shopping. This the ultimate guide in meal planning according to a nutritionist!
Since young professionals are always on-the-go and have crazy schedules, they are often out of the house long enough to go through two or three meal times. How can people make it easier to eat healthy when they haven’t been home for several hours?
Rachel: My trick is to pick one day a week and “batch cook”. This could be an afternoon or evening (my day is Sunday) to make soups, stews, curries and roast some proteins and veg. Freeze the majority of the stews and soups – they will be super handy to defrost in a pot after those long days at work. The protein and vegetable combos can be used to make lunches and breakfasts on-the-go: think omelets, salads and quinoa bowls! Soaked oats are also great – I’ve got a recipe coming out on my website soon!
How do you suggest people plan their meals? Is it realistic to sit down on a Sunday and draw up meal ideas for a whole seven days or should people be visiting the grocery store more than once a week?
Rachel: This to me is a preference thing. If you have a high stress job with set hours then you can designate a day. Some of my clients have a schedule that is all over the place, so stopping at the market works best for them. Look to websites, blogs and nutritionists such as myself for meal ideas that are efficient and easy to adhere to. Also, through my business I offer meal delivery to those who may not have the time, patience or love of cooking! Once you’re in the habit, it becomes second nature just like yoga or going to the gym!
What would you say is your most handy cooking tool for your meal planning efforts?
Rachel: Ha ha is it wrong to say myself? Joking – I look everywhere for inspiration, from markets, to my peers, even to the newest restaurant in town! Food can be an expressive art if you let it into your life! Treat yourself to a new cookbook or follow a new chef on social media – it’s amazing the ideas and things you can pick up with a bit of time and effort.
I think lunches are a challenge for many people. What’s your number one suggestion for people struggling to pack a lunch for the day?
Rachel: This goes back to batch cooking – making sushi, quinoa bowls etc. – main ingredients that you can swap into an easy lunch. My top secret move is using leftovers! I’m the queen of throwing in my leftovers with eggs or in a taco! Ten minute meals and less waste is a win-win! My own cheat tip is that if you really don’t have time, go and hit up a salad bar stocking up on proteins (vegan or animal) and lots of greens/veg. Aim for a vinaigrette – the cream dressings pack a lot of hidden fats, and not always the good fats. A no-fail dressing is lemon juice and olive oil.
What do you think is the most underrated meal planning technique that people don’t think to employ?
Rachel: I really do think freezing meals and using a slow cooker is such a great tool. Also swap events. Make a big batch of soup/sauces, etc. and have some friends over to swap! Boom – variety and love goes into the food and then you can maybe throw in a glass of wine and some social time! Hehe.
What are your top tips and tricks to meal planning? Let Rachel and I know in the comments or on Twitter – we’d love to hear from you!
To learn more about nutrition and meal planning, connect with Rachel through her website, Rachel Bies Nutrition!