Menu and Food Prep Planning
Do you absolutely love menu planning for a week full of wholesome, macronutient-filled meals? Do you skip to the kitchen every day, ready to drop the most pressing commitments so you have time to cook properly?
If so, you probably can skip this section.
On the other hand...
If the prospect of menu and food prep makes you feel like this...
... then I have two words for you:
That was me once upon a time.
I'm going to lead you step-by-step through the process I used to get started and the one I use every week.
Please feel free to adapt as suits your preferences best.
Step 1: Brainstorm
NB You only need to do step 1 once.
Set aside an hour and start brainstorming any and every meal and snack you might want to include in a week's menu. I really like doing this on post its. Use whatever suits you best.
Use recipe books and online sites, and ask friends what they would recommend.
Make sure to add the ingredients to the name of the meal - it will make grocery shopping much simpler later on.
This is what I came up with on my first session (orange for savoury, pink for blue):
IMPORTANT! Your resistance may surface as thoughts like: this is too hard/boring or I must file my paperwork/rearrange the apps on my phone/my cleaning materials under the sink etc etc
This happened to me, and I found the best way to deal with this was to set myself a few shorter brainstorm sessions with a set number (say 5) of meals/snacks to come up with.
So 3 or 4 x 20 min sessions over a week or so was much more doable than one longer brainstorming session.
Step 2: Choose How Many Days You Will Create A Menu For
Now it is time to choose some of your meals/snacks to create a menu for ??? days.
I deliberately put ??? because a week may feel far too big a job (that'll be your friend Resistance protesting again!)
Does a week feel too scary?
Then do 3 days.
They say a thousand-mile journey starts with a single step - well a menu-planning habit starts with a single day.
Step 3: Choose Your Menu Planner of Choice
(Are you are still being nagged at by your resistance? Is it saying Hey! that title reminds me of that cool dance Christopher Walken did for Fatboy Slim's video 'Weapon of Choice' - Let's watch that instead! tell it to shut up and it can watch it later.)
I am going to show you 2 ways to menu plan.
Originally I took my post its and laid them out as shown in this page: Menu Process
More recently I have been using a menu planning app. I really like this because it is handier to fill in and check my phone to see the menu than it is to find the post its menu and looks neater than my handwriting.
There are quite a few menu planning apps to choose from, so research whichever suits you best. Lots have recipes built in - but I really didn't want that. It's completely personal preference - there's no right or wrong.
I cannot state strongly enough that it will be really worth your time researching meal planning apps. The best one is the one you are most likely to use the most.
The app I use is called Meals Up. It is super simple, and pretty intuitive to use. It is free to get going (inputting your meal names and ingredients in), and I was happy to pay the £1.99 fee to unlock the menu planner)
Step 4: Menu Plan and Do Your Shopping List Together
Now you can create a menu for the number of days you have decided in step 2.
As you choose the meals and snacks for each day, you are going to create a shopping list and do your online grocery shop at the same time.
It works like this:
A) Write down the meal name for the appropriate day
B) Now check to see if you need any of the ingredients
C) Thirdly, put any missing ingredients on your shopping list or in your online grocery order.
To do step 4, I clear my kitchen table and have the post its laid out next to my ipad with the online order open, and the meal planner app open on my phone.
Step 5: Plan When You Will Make Everything You Have To
Once you have a full week's menu, you then need to make yourself accountable by deciding how much time you need to do food prep and then timetabling when exactly you will make everything on your menu. Or work out when someone else might do some of it!
For example: On Monday you choose spag bog for one of the meals. That's great...but when exactly will it be prepared? Who is making it? How log will prep take?
If Monday is a super busy day, then either make the sauce on Sunday or get someone else to make it.
My suggestion is do step 4 in one go; ie create a week's menu.
Then open your diary and see how feasible the menu you have created actually is. What meals need moving around? What food (like spag bog sauce) can you batch cook 4 or 5 portions and then freeze? Exactly when will you do that batch of sauce?
I found that once I got comfortable creating a week's menu, it became easier to sit down with my diary/calendar and say to myself: OK, what days are super busy? And what meals can fit round me on those days?
At the moment, write the cooking/food prep times in your diary. Soon I am going to show you a way to take this a step further and include menu items, food prep times and activity times in one place.
HOWEVER you need to be careful that your menu isn't bending over backwards to fit in with a life that is overflowing with other to-dos. Are you giving yourself enough time to cook like your body wants you to?
These are great questions to discuss in coaching or the group. Do not expect to get everything perfect immediately. This issue of prioritising time to cook often runs headlong into the conviction that I just don't have any time, which is something that I imagine every single person reading this page (including me) will grapple with.
In the prep period, focus on observing yourself and how successful or otherwise you are at finding time for food prep. We can look at ways to move the needle in the right direction as you move through the 90 days. Rome definitely was NOT built in a day.
Step 6: Feel Massive Relief!
It was odd the first time I made myself do the above process properly. The resistance I had turned to relief. In a weird way I felt safe - I cannot quite explain it. I was so happy i felt like dancing..
...which reminds me, I did promise my Resistance a bit of Christopher Walken.
Oh, go on then. Take it away Chris!