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Easy Meal Planning Hacks | A Busy Woman's Guide To Planning For The Week Ahead

A woman sitting at a desk writing in her planner and drinking coffee in her kitchen at her desk

As a busy woman it can often feel like you just don’t have any free time. Your to-do list and responsibilities are never ending. 

I used to think I would feel less busy when the kids went off to school, or when they moved out of the house. But now, sitting here at age 51, I can see that even though my kids have moved out and had their own kids, I have yet to become less busy...

What often happens when we feel busy is that our eating habits take a backseat! We put off eating healthy until things are less hectic. 

But I want you to ask yourself, “When will life actually stop being busy”? 

There will always be something that creates busyness in your life.

If you decide to put off prioritizing your health until you are less busy - you will just continue to put it off.

It’s time to make your health a priority again! And let me be the one to tell you that that doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming! 

Meal planning and prepping may sound a little daunting but meal planning can be as easy as writing out what you are going to eat for the next few days or as structured as spending a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon portioning out your lunch for the week. 

What meal planning looks like is going to depend a lot on you and what shifts you need to make in your health journey.

In my own experience of moving from constant tiredness to feeling more energized and healthier than ever and that of working with many busy women over the last 3 years as a wellness coach, unhealthy eating habits often boil down to a lack of prioritizing your health. 

a yogurt granola and fruit parfait being drizzled with honey

It can be easy to skip breakfast in order to save time, or work through lunch in the name of productivity, but over time these habits are going to catch up to you, leaving you with gut issues, hormonal imbalances, a lack of mental clarity, and no energy! 

If you don’t prioritize your health now, you could end up losing it in the future. 

Which is why I wrote this blog, to help you understand how meal planning and meal prepping is your secret weapon for ensuring you are getting a variety of nutrient dense foods in a way that feels sustainable with your busy schedule!

I will share:

  • The benefits of meal planning

  • What a healthy meal looks like

  • 3 tips to get started

  • How to batch cook meal components

  • How to salad bar your fridge

  • How to create a meal plan rotation 

The benefits of meal planning and prepping

You eat healthier. Eating healthy is a lot less likely to happen when you're winging it. 

If you haven’t thought ahead about what you're going to eat it is much more likely that you will reach for unhealthy options or not eat at all. 

How many times have you opened up your fridge, determined there was nothing to eat and resorted to takeout instead? Yes, we have all been there. 

Having a plan is crucial, determining what you're going to eat, and stocking your kitchen with the necessary ingredients makes the task of cooking a nutritious meal much less stressful. 

You remove the decision fatigue and it prevents you from making decisions you don’t want to make in a moment of hanger!

Saves you time. I know, but hear me out: How much time do you spend rummaging through the freezer or the pantry trying to decide what you will make?  How much time do you spend scouring your pantry and realizing you don’t have the ingredients and now you will have to think of a whole new idea for dinner?

Yes, meal planning and prepping might take you some dedicated time to actually plan and prepare but think about all the time you will have during the week when you're running from task to task.  Meal planning and prepping takes some time up front, but it saves you all of the time & mental energy you spend trying to figure it all out at the last minute after an exhausting day at work. 

You don’t need willpower. When you have a set of habits in place around your eating and lifestyle, you no longer require as much willpower to make good choices. When you have the planning and prepping done in advance and are not required to put as much thought into your meals, making food decisions becomes much easier. Think about the typical evening after a long day at work. You’re exhausted, the kids need attention, and you still have a million things to do.  It’s easy to resort to ordering pizza or grabbing fast food because it’s quick and requires no effort. However, if you’ve already prepped a healthy meal or have components ready to assemble, you can quickly whip up a nutritious dinner without the stress and without needing to muster the willpower to resist unhealthy choices.

What a healthy meal looks like

Often the women I work with think about a healthy diet as clean eating - they label foods good and bad. But in reality healthy eating means balanced eating and to have true balance means to have an equal distribution of foods that nourish us and foods that we love.  Balance is decided based on your personal circumstances. 

While 80-90% of the time we want to aim for meals that contain all 3 macronutrients - protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats, there will be times when you choose to have a piece of chocolate cake to nourish your soul. And you want to do that guilt free. 

If you're unsure what balance looks like for your life you can read more about What a Balanced Diet is here, and be sure to download your guide to Building a Balanced Plate here.

3 tips to make meal prep easy

Look ahead. Look at your week ahead. What do you have that is going to make mealtimes more difficult? Do you have an early meeting? Do the kids have soccer practice? This helps you determine what you need to have on hand to make mealtime a breeze. 

Make a menu. Start by writing out some ideas for pre-prepped meals. Keep this simple, you can make healthy meals that are not elaborate. This might be where you decide that soccer night requires something for the crockpot, or if mornings are always a rush and you are often skipping breakfast, maybe a grab and go breakfast idea is in order. Takes 15 minutes to determine what that menu needs to look like and what meal planning and prepping might make your hectic week easier. 

Stock the ingredients. Once you have your plan, it is time to make sure you have all the necessary ingredients on hand. This not only saves you time, it saves you money. Who doesn’t love to save a little money. No more stopping at the grocery store on your way home from work, or ordering takeout while the veggies you bought last week wilt in the fridge. 

How to batch cook meal components

scooping rice out of a rice cooker roasted vegetables grilled chicken

If you have time to make full meals from start to finish on weekends, that's great! But most often even trying to find a couple of extra hours to do that can be a challenge. That's where batch cooking meal components come into play. 

Meal components are batches of ingredients that you can use to make different meals throughout the week. You can use meal components in different ways depending on how you feel. It is an easy hack that gives you the flexibility to make meals on the fly. 

There are 3 steps to batch cooking:

  • step 1 - select your components

  • step 2 - determine how much you need. 

  • step 3 - start preparing.

I usually recommend preparing a carbohydrate, a couple of different sources of protein, and some vegetables. For example you might make a batch of rice, bake or grill some chicken breast, cook some lean ground turkey, and wash and chop some bell peppers, and mushrooms. 

If you plan to make chicken breast for dinners but know you might also want some for your lunch time salad then double up the amount. With just a few simple components you can make a variety of different dishes. Stir-fry, rice bowls, burritos, or soup. Unleash your creativity, and the list is endless. 

How to salad bar your fridge

This is by far my favorite meal planning tip. Women are continuing looking for the magic pill. The one that will finally give them more energy. The one that will make them look and feel younger. And the good news is there is one! 

Vegetables are filled with fiber and are low in calories, they keep you regular, give you energy, improve your complexion, & boost your mood. 

The problem is that our processed diets don’t contain enough of them. I started eating a daily super salad about 3 years ago, and I can’t believe the differences I have noticed. It is the one change I made that I contributed to being able to easily manage my weight through menopause. 

But I know what you're saying…..”I don’t have time to make a salad everyday”. 

Making salads can be a tedious chore, and that is where turning my fridge into a salad bar came into play! It takes a bit of time but once it is done, it saves you time the rest of the week, and it is a great way to ensure you are eating a variety of vegetables everyday. 

Step 1: Wash and dry all the vegetables as soon as you get home from the store. This actually prolongs the life of your fruits and vegetables. 

Step 2: Chop and store the vegetables in storage containers. I have a variety of different containers I use, including mason jars. 

Step 3: Voila! Make a salad. The great thing about having everything washed, chopped, and ready to go is you can make a different salad everyday, no need to get bored. 

How to create a meal plan rotation

meal planning containers filled with chicken, vegetables, and rice

First off, what is a meal plan rotation? 

A meal plan rotation is simply a week’s worth of 3-6 recipes you use for 1 week, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You repeat the process each week for 1 month and at the start of the new month, you repeat the rotation from week one and cycle through them again. 

Meal plan rotations are great for preventing boredom, and they help you to add variety to your diet from week to week. This increases the nutrient density and nutrient variety you will eat in the span of a month. 

Here’s how to do it!

Step one is to determine the recipes you are going to make for the week ahead. You will need breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas. 

If you are a creature of habit and are ok eating the same breakfast every day, then go ahead and do that. If you need variety then you may want to choose 2 breakfast options and alternate daily. 

You get to choose, there is no right or wrong. 

After week one is done, you can change some or all of the recipes you used, and come up with 3-6 new ideas for that week. 

Repeat the process for 1 month, at the end you will have 4 weeks of recipe combinations. 

You can then return to week 1 and repeat the meal plan. 

Creating a meal plan rotation keeps things fresh and interesting so you don’t feel like you are eating the same meals over and over again. But also creates some ease and consistency around meal planning. 

As a busy woman, it often feels like there’s never enough time in the day. Whether you’re juggling work, family responsibilities, or personal commitments, it can seem like healthy eating always gets pushed to the back burner. But it’s crucial to ask yourself, “When will life actually stop being busy?” The reality is, there will always be something demanding your attention. That’s why it’s essential to prioritize your health now, not later.

By integrating meal planning and prepping into your routine, you can ensure you’re eating nutritious, balanced meals without the stress and last-minute scrambling. The benefits are clear: you’ll eat healthier, save time, and reduce the need for willpower by having a plan in place.

Implementing these strategies can transform your approach to meals, making it easier to maintain a healthy diet even on the busiest days. It’s about making small changes that lead to sustainable habits and ultimately, a healthier you.

Be sure to download my free balanced eating guide so you can understand what components you need, but also what they are important for your health and happiness. 




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