FEAST FOR FREEDOM
Living and Thriving Gluten Free

Healthy & Gluten Free

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Categories: DIY Meal Plan    

When you want to change your diet for whatever reason, but don't know where to start, or you get bogged down in the details, creating a meal plan can really help.

It doesn't have to be fancy or complicated to start with. We've also included a downloadable template to get you started!

Recipe on tablet in kitchen
Image by: StockSnap

Getting Started:

Start with choosing the main meat for your meals for the week. See if you can plan a use for leftovers, such as having roast beef one night for dinner, and then using the leftovers for sandwiches the next day, or for making a batch of beef soup.

It's also good to try and plan some batch cooking for days when you have time. You might make a normal meal on a Saturday, for example, but you can also make a big pot of chili. Then the chili can be a main meal one night, and even put some in the freezer for another day when you're going to have less time.

If you find you end up eating the same thing and want to add some variety, adding more variety and planning for it on a meal plan is a great way to get more variety.

Adding Details:

As you get used to doing some planning, you can add in more organization. It's a great way to get more desired changes that fit your goals, and to reduce the stress of trying to figure out what's for dinner at the last minute as you drive home from work.

If you tend to not eat your leftovers, and then end up having to throw them away, meal planning is a great way to plan a use for them. You can use leftover veggies to add to some soup stock from the freezer. Or use leftover potatoes for pan fries the next day for breakfast.

Adding this info to your meal plan as you plan out the week means you won't have to think about in the morning rush. You can just glance at your menu on your fridge or tablet and you don't have to think of it.

If there are specific meals that you struggle with the most, put the time in to plan those ones a bit more when you're just starting out creating your plans for the week.

Helping with Grocery Shopping:

Meal planning also helps with grocery shopping. As you build out your plan for the week, build the shopping list as you go. It's much easier to plan it ahead of time, when you have time to think about it.

If one of your goals is to reduce the number of trips to the store, making a grocery list can really help with this. With planning, you can actually reduce the trips to just once a week.

Fresh produce won't always last a whole week, depending on what it is, and how ripe it is when you buy it. But with planning you can use the highly perishable items within a day or two, and then later in the week use the items that can be stored longer, such as carrots and cabbage.

Buying all your meat at once for a week, or even longer, can reduce your trips also. Most meat freezes really well. You can take a glance at your menu for the next day, when you're prepping tonite's dinner or cleaning up, and take it out of the freezer to thaw overnight in the fridge.

Pantry Management:

Menu planning can also be a way of using up items in your pantry or freezer that you really aren't using. Pick an item you should use up, and find some recipes to use it up over the next while and add it to your plan. If it's something you like, you can buy it again, and if it's not, you can simply use it up and "be done with it."

If weight loss is one of your goals, taking the time to plan it out takes some of the stress out of the process. You can take extra time to plan for things that you know are your downfall, such as snacks and desserts. Reducing the number of trips to the store will also help, since you'll have less chance to add in unwanted items.

Weekly Menu Plan Template Download:

Here is a Basic Weekly Meal Plan Download that you can use to get started (copy to your computer, or make a copy on Google Drive). When you're first starting, don't get too complicated. It's a new habit to get used to, and if you have too much complexity at the start, you simply won't keep doing it.

After 2 or 3 weeks, you'll get an idea of the kind of things you'd like to add, and that need more details, and you can add them in. There will be other things that don't require much thought or added detail, and you can either delete them, or just keep them simple.

An example might be that you don't really need help with breakfast. You can delete it or just use one line and keep it simple.

An example of a bit more complexity would be to add in links to recipes. You could plan out the whole week at once, with links, then at the end you can build your shopping list and you'll have the recipe links handy.

Examples of How to Fill in the Weekly Plan:

On the Basic Weekly Meal Plan there are 2 extra tabs. The first one, Sample 1, shows a couple dinner meats, and then how to use them the next day or two. As you build out your plan, you can add in the leftover uses at the same time. If you don't usually have leftovers, you may find you want to add some in, especially for easier things, like homemade soup, as a "planned" leftover strategy.

On the second tab, Sample 2, I've included some links to recipes, to show how they can be added. I've also added a bit more detail on building out a plan that uses various leftovers for the following days.

You can see how it's much easier to plan out all kinds of things with leftover uses preplanned, that will really help with preventing food waste. This can also be a great strategy to have either more complex meals within your same schedule, or to help reduce some time for specific days that are busy.

Try out some planning by making a copy or downloading the Basic Weekly Meal Plan and let me know in the comments how it's going!

Happy Meal Planning!

Thora Toft

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