Stuck in a meal planning rut? Don’t know what to cook this week? Tired of eating the same meals every day? I got some meal planning ideas for you! Add in fresh new meal ideas while also looking at meal planning through an intuitive eating lens.
Planning with Purpose
Note that I use the word meal planning and not plan. This is to emphasize that meal planning with intuitive eating is an active practice. It’s not a 7-day meal plan to serve as a “quick” fix.
Traditional diet-based meal planning is restrictive, calorie-focused, and inflexible. Intuitive eating aligned meal planning includes variety, flexibility, and takes into account your preferences.
Without a focus on weight or calories, you may be wondering: what are intuitive eating aligned reasons for meal planning? Here are a few examples:
- Reduce stress and save time during a busy week
- Promote variety and abundance in food selection
- Save money and eat more meals from home
- Explore new recipes, cuisines, or cooking techniques
- Reduce single-use plastic if environmental issues are of importance to you
What is your intuitive eating aligned purpose for meal planning? Take a moment to write them down!
Meal Planning Ideas
Now that you’re crystal clear on your reasons for meal planning through a self-care lens, let’s review 7 meal planning ideas to inspire creativity in the kitchen.
1 – Mix Old with New
Just because you want to try some new recipes, doesn’t mean you need to toss out the old ones. Let’s be honest. New recipes can be a little more time-consuming than your typical go-to’s. That’s why I recommend starting with 1-2 new recipes per week, mixed in with familiar meals. If you have a tendency to be “all-or-none” when it comes to meal planning, give yourself permission to start small.
2 – Shop for Seasonal Ingredients
Follow mother nature for fresh meal ideas. Shopping for in-season produce can help you try new foods, save money, and enjoy foods in their prime state. Challenge yourself to theme a meal around in-season produce and have fun with it!
Go to this Seasonal Food Guide to find out what’s in season near you.
3 – Cookbook Inspiration
Nothing compares to holding a physical cookbook. With all things digital these days, there’s something nostalgic about browsing through an old or new cookbook. Previously, I shared recipe inspiration from my 3 favorite cookbooks here. Plus, here are the new cookbooks I have my eye on:
Half Baked Harvest Every Day: Soul-satisfying recipes…say no more. If you haven’t checked out the Half Baked Harvest blog or additional cookbooks, run don’t walk. Teigan’s recipes are delicious!
Gentle Nutrition: Rachael Hartley is a registered dietitian who approaches food through a non-diet lens. Discover new recipes AND learn about intuitive eating with gentle nutrition.
4 – Pinterest Inspiration
Want to try the same recipes I’ve been making for dinner? I started a “MEAL IDEAS” board on Pinterest, which includes the meals I’ve been making at home that get a 5-star rating. This includes everything from enchiladas, to salads, wraps, and muffins. Follow this Pinterest board or create one of your own.
5 – Make Room for Convenience Foods
Processed foods get a bad reputation. But processed foods CAN be a part of a healthy eating pattern. In fact, did you know that “processed food” includes any food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, packaged or changed in nutritional composition with fortifying or preserving?
When we consider that definition of processed food, frozen fruit and vegetables are technically processed food! Some of my favorite convenience foods come from Trader Joe’s. See a list here.
Additionally, take advantage of your grocery store’s ready-to-eat foods. For example, already cooked rotisserie chicken or pre-made salads. I use these items on busier weeknights or evenings I don’t feel like cooking as much.
Related article: Meals in Minutes from Pantry Staples
6 – Theme Nights
Start with a few theme nights to simplify dinner decision-making. Try #TacoTuesday, pizza Thursdays, or fish Fridays. Within each “theme” come up with various recipes.
In my house, we’ve been on the taco Tuesday train. We rotate through recipes like my Portobello Mushroom Tacos, Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchilada Skillet, Fish Tacos, and Lentil Cauliflower Tacos. Notice all the variety even within one theme? Have fun trying theme nights!
7 – Outsource
Make meal planning easier by outsourcing. You can order groceries online for curbside pick up or even schedule delivery through Instacart. Many people enjoy meal delivery kits through services like Hello Fresh, Sunbasket, or Daily Harvest. Not sure if outsourcing is for you? Ask yourself these questions:
- What meal of the day do I need more support with?
- What meal of the day tends to lack variety?
- Would the cost of outsourcing be worth the time, effort, and energy saved?
Perhaps you determine that grocery delivery makes sense for weekends you’re out of town. Or maybe you set up a meal delivery service for 1-2 nights per week.
The Final Verdict
Be practical, flexible, and have fun! Meal planning is meant to work for you, not against you. Select 1-2 new strategies that make sense for you this month!