5 Ways to Make Meal Planning EASY

I used to be one of those people who would go to the grocery store and try to buy things that would turn into good, healthy meals. This was a terrible challenge since I can find my way around a city, but not a grocery store. I’ve had to ask for help finding the potatoes before. I’m also susceptible to decision fatigue, so 9 out of 10 times I’d come home having bought the same exact things — and still lack the ingredients to make fun meals.

And then I started to get into cooking. I joined the lunch club at my office (only because my work wife started it) and realized I was not going to serve the chickpea salad I ate every day to other people. Soon enough, I was asking friends for recipes and started discovering some fantastic food bloggers. Snarky, delicious, healthy, and unpretentious.

But once you start collecting recipes, you need a place to store them and organize them. And somehow those recipes need to turn into grocery lists and get on your table at the end of the day. Our brains are all wired a little differently, so luckily for our diverse world, there’s a wide array of choices for how to keep track of all those recipes you’re excited to try and turn them into meal plans.

 

alex g

Alex Giesser is a fitness buff and avid traveler. He trained at the International Culinary Center in New York, during which time I mostly lived off of his leftovers. He’s also an expert beer brewer. He originally hails from Germany. You can find him on Twitter.

Alex is a very practical cook with a busy life. He buys in bulk and uses it to make big batches of healthy, delicious meals. 

Alex’s tool for easy meal planning: Microsoft OneNote

My recipes are very simple and usually don’t have more than ten ingredients. I don’t like fluff, so it’s very much inspired by Scandinavian, rustic Italian cuisine, etc.
 
I also make sure I have the the right proportions of macros (Carbs/Fat/Protein) while preparing my food. I personally have a 30% – 35% – 35% ratio as I am very active at work and carbs make me sleepy.
 
Put it on grams, not ounces, and never look back.
 
I went through a couple of apps for my recipes (Trello, Google Docs, and Google Keep, and Evernote), but am quite fond of Microsoft OneNote right now for any of my notes. Subscription services also make me feel uneasy and OneNote is free.
 
Using one note for planning healthy meals
 
I also use Myfitnesspal to track my food. It has the biggest database out there (for free) and you can scan barcodes of cans and things you use when cooking.
 
But for the beginner, I definitely recommend getting a cheap notepad and writing everything down. And I mean every-little-thing. It’s much easier to stay on the path with a list while thinking about meal preparation and while your going grocery shopping.
 
 healthy meals for disease and cancer prevention
 
Depending on the season I cook with different, but easy to get tools. My top three are:
  • A waffle iron – For waffling my sandwiches, making a quick and easy frittata or even brownies
  • A slow cooker – Dump everything in and walk away to come back to beautiful stews/pulled meats/etc.
  • A cast iron skillet – 12″ is the size that fits everything you ever need to cook that doesn’t go on a grill. Stays with you forever unless you put it in the dishwasher.
All this together can be bought under $60 and is the foundation of any kitchen that wants to cook.
 
barley stew in the slow cooker. photo by Alex G 
 
Going to the gym frequently got me into meal planning and if you don’t mind eating a lot of the same food like brown rice, sweet potatoes, broccoli, chicken breast, steak and the like, it is actually quite easy to buy everything in bulk and not have it go bad. I buy a lot of vegetables frozen. They are cheaper and of a more consistent quality. Food that steams in the bag is great for days when you are super busy and you forgot to take food out of the freezer to thaw. Just watch the sodium on the back of the bag!
 
a bowl of meat and a bowl of peas. photo by alex g
 
My wife and I are currently going to the shop twice a week and manage to stay under $120 including food for the cat.
 
I usually keep most of the sturdy takeout containers but otherwise keep things like bigger jars for portioning out food. Quart containers are still a staple in my kitchen even after not working in one anymore.
bree rubin

At work, Bree Rubin is an expert in UX/UI design, product development, graphic and web design, and interaction design. After hours she’s usually painting or building something with an arduino. She’s also an avid cook.

Bree’s way to Meal Planning: Diabetes in Check

Planning meals to help her husband manage his diabetes can be a challenge. Bree’s experimenting with several tools to come up with meal plans with the proper nutrition and carb ratio.

Finding the right app can be a challenge for people who are looking to gain weight.

lenny the lion screenshots of build a meal and compare the carbs game

Their doctor suggested Carb Counting with Lenny. It has games (designed for children, but fine for adults) to train users on carb counting.

Create Your Plate, from the American Diabetes Association, helps calculate GI to manage glucose levels. They also share sample plates to inspire you.

diabetes in check recipe and meal log screenshot

So far, Diabetes In Check is her favorite app. You can scan in the barcode of ingredients to automatically input them into your food log. The app itself contains recipes and a meal planner tool, which are really helpful, although not yet as comprehensive as she’d like.

dana b

Dana Ben-Benyamin works in Development for the American Associates, Ben-Gurion University. She lives in Manhattan with her husband.

Dana’s Meal Planning Tips: Pinterest

Dana lives a very busy, social life in New York – and she frequently works late. She’s an expert at finding healthy food on the go, as well as the healthiest items on the menu of all the best restaurants nearby.

photo by Dana B
You can eat out and still eat healthy.

She still manages to cook at home a couple times a week. Since she’s usually cooking one meal at a time, Pinterest is the ideal spot to keep track of recipes. The highly visual style makes it easy to scroll through and see what looks good. Coming up with a grocery list is as easy as looking at the ingredients and adding it to her grocery list.

Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 10.15.23 AM

Pinterest is a great way to keep things organized, especially if you’re looking to master the art of food plating. 

Photo by Dana B

You can find Savor Health on Pinterest, too!

 

Cori’s Meal Planning Tools: Trello

I have a habit of talking to people about everything except work, so I knew by buddy Adam for years before I realized he was part of the Trello team. When I found out he’d been holding out on an awesome, adaptable tool, I gave him a pretty hard time about it. That tool is Trello and if you’re familiar with the kanban system of project management it’ll look pretty familiar.

meal planning trello boardMy recipe board isn’t as nice as Brian’s, but it works the same way. You can take a look at his board (which is set to be public) to play around and get an idea of what I’m talking about.

cori's menu planning trello boardBrian’s taken the time to add pictures, so his looks a lot more fun than mine. My board looks pretty boring, but trust me that all my recipes are super delicious. (Okay, and yeah, I still eat a lot of chickpea salad, but I’ve upped my chickpea game).

recipe card on trello

Each recipe gets its own Trello card. I’ll copy and paste the recipe into the card and include the url to where ever I got it from (or write in the name of the cookbook).

I made Trello lists for the primary ingredient of each recipe — is this a legume, a starch, veggies, grains, seafood, or greens? I also have a column for things my wife hates, so I know what to make when I’m cooking alone. Oh, and a column for sweets and breads.

Once I make a recipe, I’ll use the tags to mark it a success. If it’s not so successful, I’ll add comments to modify the recipe to my liking, or I’ll move it over to the reject list so I don’t make the same mistake again.

Tags are a great to mark which foods are great for a quick dinner, good for potlucks, or so involved it’s a special production. I also have tags to mark which ones are vegan and safe for various friends’ food allergies.

At the beginning of the week, I’ll go through and add dates into the recipe cards on Trello. This automatically adds it to my calendar, so I know what to make each day. I’ll then make a shopping list and hit the grocery store. I use Trello’s search tool to find other recipes with the same ingredient, so I’m not spending a ton of money on ingredients that’ll just end up going bad in my fridge.

grocery lists on trello

I make my list on paper, but you can also make a Trello card for that week and add a checklist with the ingredients you’ll need. Their app is great; it’s easy to check things off on your phone at the store, or pull up a recipe to double-check that you’ve got everything.

weekly grocery checklist on trello

Trello is designed to work for a team, so it’s a great tool to share with your family members and caregivers. You can assign recipes and tasks to people so they know what night they’re cooking and if they’re in charge of the shopping that week.

Trello is free. They have a paid version, but it’s designed for businesses, so you’d absolutely never have to pay for your menu plan.

Still overwhelmed by menu planning?

If you’re trying to fuel your body for the fight against cancer — especially when dealing with the added challenge of also staying gluten-free, kosher, vegan, paleo, and managing food allergies or another condition — our oncology dietitians are happy to take care of all the meal planning for you. See all of the options Savor Healt offers for meal delivery for cancer patients.

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