13 Tips for Meal Planning
June 20th, 2017

Meal planning for one or two is a learning process. Add a baby or two to the mix and it becomes a JOB! With our busy schedules, easy access to take-out, prepared and restaurant food, there is little time left in the day to adequately prepare nutritional and tasty meals. Meal planning varies in scope and experience; it can be as simple as having an idea of what you will cook every night to knowing how to repurpose food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is an essential tool for any individual wanting to save money, time or improve health with home cooked meals. These factors intensify with the biggest life changer– a kid. Thus, planning and strategizing is essential. I’ll outline some quick tips for those pre-baby wanting to get a head start and then provide tips for those in the midst of the baby chaos.

It’s never too late to start!

Pre-Baby Meal Planning Tips:

  • STORAGE EQUIPMENT

    Ensure you have the proper sized and quantity of equipment to store food in the fridge and on the go for up to 5 days of lunch. Have a variety of sizes for smaller items (nuts, berries) and smaller quantities (proportioned full fat cheeses). For homemade soups, casseroles and larger items, have at least a 4 cup size. Check out U-Konserve for sustainable based packaged containers. You can find U-Konserve on amazon too!

  • COOKING EQUIPMENT

 If you are new to home cooking, invest in some basic cookware. The following are “must haves”:

    • Sharp chef’s knife
    • Cutting board (several – one for raw meat, vegetables and then smaller items).
    • Several utensils for stirring, flipping and breaking up food.
    • Invest in a two to three quality sauté pans (Calphalon is one of my favorites and last for years!), a small sauce pan (2 cup), and large soup pot (doubles as a pasta pot). Contact me for a full list and guidance on kitchen cooking tips.
  • MEAL RESOURCES

Here’s the tough part – what to cook! First of all, pick dishes that serve as lunches for the next day OR can be repurposed for those who dislike “leftovers”. I tackle many of these aspects in my “10 Tips to Tackling Lunch Packing Challenges”. Check out some of my recipes for meal ideas. Resources I love are Cooking Light, Boston Organics, and Food & Wine for richer and more cooking intensive occasions. I save recipes I’ve tested to ChefTap – an app with many functional benefits.

  • ROUTINE

 A habit takes 90 days to develop and can be easily disrupted by life challenges, so find a routine and rhythm that fits your life style and needs. I work with clients to determine the best methods for them, so please reach out if you need assistance. Otherwise, try some of these tips: pick two nights to cook multiple meals, pack lunch one day a week and increase the frequency to eventually add breakfast. Review your schedule to determine the best time to chop, shop and prep! Cook a pot of quinoa and use in various ways for different meals.

  • ENLIST SUPPORT

 Make sure other family members are on board. Have them pitch in with chopping one night or measuring ingredients.

  • SOURCING QUALITY FOOD

Spend one hour researching local farmer’s markets, or maybe a fruit and veggie delivery service. Boston Organics is one of my favs as it ensures we have PLENTY of vegetables. I have to find reasons to use them up, which means I am getting more than enough veggies.

Your Bundle of Joy has arrived. Everything has been thrown into chaos.

  • SCALE BACK

Don’t try to achieve everything listed above. Reduce the amount of cooking in your first few weeks as a parent. Stick to good eating habits, but don’t stress about eating perfectly every day. Tues night should be simple – check out my “Not Your Tues Night Meal” blog.

  • RESPONSIBILITY SHIFT

If your spouse did all the meal prep, ask if he/she can handle the little one while you prep the meal. This may lengthen the process, but that’s better than 2 juggling two jobs – entertainer and cook.

  • EFFICIENCY

Chop more than enough vegetables for salads, roasting, soups, scrambled eggs, fajitas, pizza toppings and more. It’s draining to think about chopping EVERY night for a new meal. The same goes for protein. I buy about 2lbs of chicken. 1 lb. for a recipe, the other pound I chop, season, marinate and then cook when convenient to add to lunches, breakfast or snacks.

  • VEGETABLES FOCUS

Make vegetables the focus of the meal and add protein as necessary. This is less daunting then having a main meat meal, expands the options, and ensures a large intake of vegetables.

  • “I AM NOT A SHORT ORDER COOK”

 Repeat this mantra even amidst the screaming. If you are having vegetables, the baby can have vegetables. Mash and puree what you are having with some yogurt and/or hummus. Over the age of one, bake green beans for adults leaving the beans for baby in the oven a few minutes longer. Make soup and puree it. This will also ensure your little one is eating a balanced diet and will understand the value of eating a home cooked meal with everyone – not separate. They won’t starve, so be careful about giving into the snacks and treats in the fear they will go hungry!

  • PLAN PLAN PLAN

Plan ahead even more. Think about the meals a week in advance. It seems daunting, but remember that one hour in advance saves hours on the end. Have a place for recipes you randomly find – either a manila folder, a note pad or have a running notes list on your phone/device, excel spreadsheet. Review when you need ideas.

  • DIVERSIFY

Remember to be open to diversifying your food. Don’t get too caught up in the ease of packaged goods. Wholefoods is great, but they are increasingly pushing us towards pre-packaged foods. It’s a wonderful complement to your meal planning, not a supplement.

This is a lot to digest, so reach out to yourwellnessscout@gmail.com with questions and check out my full length blog for further details and applicable tips.

For now, the three most important takeaways:

  • Pick the tips that work for you – Prioritize
  • Give yourself time for trial and error.
  • Focus on quality food.

Your Wellness Scout

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