How To Meal Plan Effectively

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I’m linking up again for Wild Workout Wednesday, which is quickly becoming my favorite link-up. Be sure to visit Nicole’s blog and click around to get more health and fitness inspiration!

A huge component to a healthy lifestyle is effective planning. When I learned how to meal plan and prep effectively, everything clicked for me! With pre-portioned options waiting for me, I’m much less likely to make poor decisions. It also helps me spend less at the grocery store, because I’m not impulse buying or just throwing things in the cart willy nilly.

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How to Meal Plan Effectively

It took me quite some time to figure out how to meal plan. It started to get easier when I joined the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan. I suddenly had all of these amazing healthy recipes at my finger tips, along with a guide to what I should eat and when. Another fantastic feature of the TIU Plan is that I get lifetime updates for free. It is initially a large chunk of change, but in the long run, a fantastic value. I highly recommend it if you are feeling lost when it comes to your nutrition.

All right, let’s get to the fun part. This is a method I have tweaked throughout the years to fit our lifestyle. We are currently in a supremely busy and stressful season of life. Because of that, meal planning is basic and simple. However, it’s still very important to me, so I always take the time to do it.

1 // Get Organized

Each week, I sit down with my nutrition and fitness notebook (I’m using this one from Erin Condren right now), a list pad (I think mine is from Michaels), and my Tone It Up Nutrition Plan (and other resources). My nutrition and fitness notebook is literally just a spiral in which I write down my meals and workouts for the week. I break it down by listing M (which stands for MEAL) and the number or code out next to it. I eat three meals and two snacks a day, so I write M1, M2, M3, M4, and M5. It is so much easier for me to eat the same breakfast, lunch, and snacks every day, so I do! I cook dinner for my husband and myself about three times a week, so I list M5 three times.

How to Meal Plan Effectively

I like to divide my list based on the sections of my store. I highly recommend doing this based on your store! This saves me time by keeping from running back and forth across the store because I wrote things down out of order, or scanning up and down my list when I’m on aisle and then forgetting something because I overlooked it. I haven’t found a printable grocery list that fits my needs, so I make my own by dividing my sections up into 1. Produce, 2. Meat/Dairy (this includes eggs), 3. Canned/Aisle (basically anything not on an outside aisle), and 4. Other (slow cooker liners, foil, paper plates, etc.).

How to Meal Plan Effectively

2 // Plan It Out

Many of the Tone It Up editions include 6-8 week meal plans in which every meal is laid out for you. I loosely follow these guidelines for Meals 1-4. My sweet husband, as much as I love him, is not on the lean, clean, and green bandwagon most of the time. 🙂 He eats dairy, and lots of it, and likes 85/15 beef. I like 93/7, so we compromise by buying 90/10. :p He does not eat unhealthy, I just think his dietary requirements are different than mine. That said, my M5 selections are planned with him in mind. I eat dairy, pork, beef, and yes, sometimes starch at dinner!

I select our meals for the week based on a few things. 1. What we already have in our freezer/pantry, 2. What’s on sale at my store, and 3. What sounds good at the moment! As I’m deciding on meals, I write down every necessary ingredient in its category on my grocery list. When I’m finished, I’ll take stock of any staples we may be running low on and add those to the list as well.

How To Meal Plan Effectively

BONUS HACK: I already told you I cook dinner about three times a week. Each of those nights has a “theme” to it to help make my life easier based on the week ahead. Mondays always suck and Wednesdays are my long days, so whatever is planned for those days will always be coded M5 Easy (a sheet pan or one pan dinner) or M5 CP (something I can quickly throw in the crock pot on my way out in the morning). The worst feeling in the world is coming home from a long day and having to stand in front of the stove for an hour, or resorting to ordering pizza because you just don’t want to!

I also like to plan for at least one super quick, no prep snack! For example, I might add larabars (our fave) to the list, or elect to have a hard boiled egg with a piece of fruit. And yes, I will buy pre-boiled eggs.

3 // Shop

I plan on Wednesdays and usually head to the store on Thursday or Friday and try my darnedest to stick to my list! Substitutions are made when necessary and I throw in new products I think we might like, but for the most part I only buy what’s on my list. Sometimes this drives my husband crazy because he thinks we don’t have any snacks in the house. 😉

How to Meal Plan Effectively

That’s it. That’s how I meal plan! It’s simple, it’s mundane, but it gets the job done. Taking just a few minutes each week to put in the effort up front makes a huge difference in how my following week will go. At this point you may be asking yourself, “Ok, now what do you do with all that food?!” Well, come back next week for part two: How to Meal Prep Effectively, and I will gladly tell you how I get from plan to prep each week.

Other resources I use when meal planning include Lauren Gleisberg’s Eat Your Way Lean PlanTone It Up: 28 Days to Fit, Fierce, and Fabulous, Fixate, Mix-and-Match Meal Planner, Mix and Match Mama’s website, anything by Pioneer Woman, and of course, Pinterest!

A Ridiculously Easy Snack Idea

Today, I have an easy, healthy snack idea for you! In fact, it’s so ridiculously easy, it can’t really be called a recipe. It’s more just a combination of foods. But in my experience, those random combinations sometimes make the best snacks!

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easy-healthy-snack

I threw this together a few weeks ago when I was in the mood for a single serving snack and it hit the spot.

Ingredients:

1 rice cake (the flavor I used was apple cinnamon)
2 tbsp. peanut butter
1/4 c. blueberries
2 sliced strawberries

Spread peanut peanut on the rice cake and top with blueberries and sliced strawberries. Easy as that! Happy snacking. 🙂

The combination of the berries with the peanut butter give this snack an old school “PB&J” feel, but the rice cake keeps it low in calories. I guess you could call it the grown up’s peanut butter and jelly. 😉

Easy, healthy snack idea

What have you been snacking on lately?

Zucchini Noodle Chicken Parmesan

All right, y’all. I’ve got a recipe for you today. It features zucchini noodles made with the spiralizer! We received a spiralizer attachment for our mixer for Christmas and I’ve used  it no less than twice a week since then. Zucchini, sweet potatoes, potatoes — I’m spiralizing it all! So here it is, my recipe for zucchini noodle chicken parmesan!

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Zucchini Noodle Chicken Parmesan

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to make zucchini noodles with the spiralizer. I’ve been having so much fun thinking up new dishes, and replacing pasta in some of our favorites. If you are familiar with the Tone It Up nutrition plan, you know they recommend to limit starches after your midday meal. This dish is a great way to still have “pasta” without all the carbs packed into traditional pasta. And since the chicken is breaded in quinoa flour, this meal is approved for your Meal 5 on the TIU plan! 😉

 

Ingredients: 

2 chicken breasts, 4-6 oz.
1 c. quinoa flour
2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, whisked
1 c. pasta sauce
2 medium zucchini
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. mozzarella cheese
Salt, pepper, & granulated garlic to taste

Steps:

For the chicken: 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix quinoa flour, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese
Dip chicken breast in egg, followed by quinoa flour mixture and arrange on a sheet pan sprayed with cooking oil
Bake chicken breast for 30 minutes, or until cooked through

For the zucchini noodles: 

Spiralize zucchini into noodle form
In a skillet over medium-high heat, combine zucchini noodles with olive oil, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic
Cook until noodles are soft and heated through
Plate zucchini noodles and top with chicken breast, pasta sauce, and mozzarella cheese — enjoy IMMEDIATELY! 🙂

My husband will eat just about anything, but he’s very picky when it comes to “healthy” food. In other words, he won’t really eat it. This dish, however, he devoured and went back for seconds. 🙂

Do you have a spiralizer? What new recipes are you cooking up in your kitchen?

I’m linking this post up for Food Friday with Sweet Nothings! Pop over to check out some other great recipes and foodie posts!

Chocolate Almond Post Workout Smoothie

Hey, friends! Any of my teacher friends heading back to school today?! I started back last Friday, but my kiddos come back today. So on this first day back to school, here’s a post workout smoothie recipe you can make as you’re running out the door. This post workout smoothie is easy, fast, and tastes great!

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post workout smoothie

For most of us, mornings are crazy busy. When I’m trying to head out the door and get to school, a smoothie is sometimes the easiest thing to grab. Over Christmas break, I threw this together quickly after a workout and I know I’ll be going back to it again and again. Post workout or snack time smoothies are a great way to get in your macronutrients with some micronutrients thrown in too. 🙂

Ingredients:
8 oz. unsweetened almond milk
1 scoop of chocolate protein powder
1 tbsp. almond butter
Small handful of sliced almonds
~1/2 c. spinach
1/2 c. ice

Simply blend ingredients together until smooth and you’re ready to go!

For this PWO smoothie, I used our Nutri Ninja Auto-IQ. We received it as a wedding gift and I love it! It’s been one of our most used items.

Do you have some favorite go-to recipes after a workout?