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Kickoff's certified personal trainers and registered dietitians share detailed analysis, discussion, and how-tos about the questions we get most often

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Meal Planning 101

Many of us have heard that meal planning is a great habit to save time, save money, and stay on track with our nutrition goals, but how exactly do you get started? 

Because you are less likely to make good choices or have access to healthy options when you leave food decisions to the last minute, making a healthy meal plan and having things in place to execute that plan makes it way easier to follow. It’s that simple.But meal planning is also important to keep healthy eating interesting, and easy to stick to. By planning ahead, you’ll be able to try fun new recipes instead of relying on a few tired go-to’s.

Here are some key tips and tricks to get started on your path to meal planning success.

Start with Recipes

Before you go grocery shopping, start with recipes. Use Pinterest, personal blogs and good old-fashioned cookbooks for inspiration, and use a meal-planning template to figure out what you will eat when. Write it down! (If you’re training with Kickoff, your coach will help you with this).

Look at Your Calendar

When making your plan, it is helpful to have your calendar/smartphone close by so you can check when you have time to cook for the week. If you don’t have a lot of time, eat each meal a few times. If you have more time to cook, you can bring in more variety by cooking more.

You can do your cooking on weekends in preparation for the entire week, or you can split it up and do some on the weekend and some more on a Wednesday/Thursday for the second half of the week. Schedule the prepping/cooking in your calendar. 

Figure in Servings and Leftovers to Create Your Shopping List

Based on the servings specified in each recipe, will you have enough to cover all the times you will eat this particular meal, or do you need to double/triple the recipe? Also, is anyone else eating the same meal with you? Factor that in when finalizing total servings, and make note of it for your shopping list. Finalize your shopping list based on the recipes and servings you selected. Don’t forget to check in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry to see whether you already have some of the ingredients (spices, cooking oils, etc.) to save you time and money later.

Food Storage

Bonus Tip: Check whether you have enough food storage containers at home so you can safely store all the meals you are creating. Glass containers are best. Plastic breaks down over time and leaches into your food, especially when you use the containers in a microwave. Store leftovers in single-use containers in the refrigerator or freezer.

Ideas for Prepping and Cooking

As far as the actual prepping and cooking goes, here are a few tips:

  • Prepare vegetables in advance. Cut up enough veggies to last a few days, both for snacking and cooking various meals. 

  • Make sides like brown rice and quinoa ahead of time. This way it is ready and you just need to reheat as needed.

  • If you drink smoothies for breakfast or as a snack, you could double the recipe and have some for the next day. Stored in the fridge they are usually good up to 24 hours. 

  • Breakfast dishes like overnight oats, chia puddings, or veggies to go with eggs can be prepared for the entire week ahead of time. Enjoy cold or reheat in the morning. 

  • Salads in a jar are also a great way to prepare meals ahead of time. Use a large mason jar to layer the ingredients for your salad. Start with the dressing at the bottom and finish with salad greens in the end so they don’t get soggy. When you’re ready to eat, just empty the contents of your mason jar onto a plate and enjoy.

There you have it! Making meal planning a weekly habit can save you time and money, and it is great for your health, too. 

To get a personalized meal plan and train with Johanna Fassbender, ISSA C.P.T., visit here.