Meal Planning for a Busy Life

Posted On Feb 10, 2015 By Erin Kuh, MBA, RD

Meal Planning for a Busy Life

Time. We all want more of it, but it's not something we can buy or create more of. When we run out of time in a day, that's it. It's all gone. Time, or the lack thereof, is the most common excuse for skipping exercise and relying on convenient, unhealthy food.

It's time to change that, starting with creating a weekly meal plan. Sure, I could provide you with a meal plan, or give you links where you could download one, but that wouldn't fit your tastes, preferences, budget, and health goals. Instead, use the guidelines below to create and implement a weekly meal plan for the meal you have the most challenges with (for most people it's dinner) that fits you and your family. Plan to plan and you'll ensure success!

  • Set aside 10-15 minutes every week, preferably the same day, to write or type your meal plan. Post it on your fridge.
  • If you're trying to incorporate healthier meals into your diet, try 1-2 new recipes per week. Make it a few weeks in a row so eventually you have a new healthy meal you can make from memory.
  • Plan to have one night of leftovers or cook extra vegetables, chicken, etc to use a second time but in a new way. For example cook enough chicken to make stir fry one night and chicken tacos the next.
  • Create themes for each day (Taco Tuesdays, Crockpot Sundays, Breakfast for Dinner Thursdays).
  • Do extra meal prep on the weekend.
  • Get your family involved! Kids can be a great help, but get them excited too by incorporating one of their favorite meals into the weekly meal plan.
  • Stock your pantry with convenient healthy items like quick cooking oats, 10-minute brown rice, 10-minute barley, couscous (only takes 5 minutes to cook!), canned tuna and salmon, and salsa and marinara sauce to add healthy low-cal flavor to vegetables, pasta, and rice dishes.
  • Stock your freezer with items to grab in a real pinch: frozen cooked shrimp, frozen cut vegetables, and healthy frozen meals.

If you feel overwhelmed at first by the thought of creating a meal plan, that's actually a great first step. Thinking ahead of time about what you're going to fix will propel you to become proactive in planning healthy meals. Taking a few minutes to plan ahead will mean fewer trips to the grocery store, more nutritious meals to help your energy levels and fuel your workouts, and less time in the kitchen. All this added up equals time saved!