Real Food Whole Life

5 meal planning myths (and why it's not as complicated as you think)

simplified meal planningRobyn DownsComment

Meal planning doesn't have to be difficult or time consuming! Read on for 5 meal planning myths and find out why it's not as complicated as you think.

Common meal planning myths, and how to simplify your meal plan process.

Meal planning.

It’s one of those things you know you should be doing, but that many of us end up avoiding.

You know planning will help you eat well and feel good throughout the week, but still, it ends up on the dreaded chore list and often gets skipped.

If you know the benefits of meal planning, but avoid it because it seems complicated, overwhelming, or downright unpleasant, know that you’re not alone.

Maybe you feel pressure to cook new and original recipes each night of the week, or maybe the idea of sifting through thousands of recipes makes you want to run the other way.

If this sounds like you, know that meal planning can actually be simple, seamless part of your weekly routine.

There are so many meal planning myths out there, reinforcing the idea that it has to be arduous or complicated. 

Today I’m breaking down the myths, sharing why it’s not as complicated as you might think, and giving you a game-plan to streamline the process in your every day.

Let's get to it!

Common meal planning myths, and how to simplify your meal plan process.

1 | MYTH ONE: YOU MUST MAKE A NEW RECIPE EACH NIGHT OF THE WEEK

In the past traditional meal planning has required sifting through dozens of recipes and creating a new plan each week.

This method is not only time-consuming, but also impractical for weeknight cooking. 

It also makes grocery shopping tricky, since each recipe has a separate list of ingredients that may or may not work together after that particular recipe has been made.

The Simpler Way: Think of meals in terms of “The Essential Six.”

The Essential Six are the fundamental building blocks of any recipe: sauces, protein, cooked veggies, raw veggies, grains + bases, and toppings + extras. 

Thinking in terms of building blocks allows you to combine them into an infinite number different meals. Think bowls, tacos, pasta, salads, and stir-frys, just to name a few.

Using the Essential Six method allows you to efficiently shop, plan and prep, without wasted time or money. 

As an added bonus, you can create a fridge and pantry filled with ingredients that actually go together, no matter what you’re cooking. 

Plus, thinking of meals in terms of the Essential Six allows you to efficiently prep just part of a meal, without cooking the entire meals ahead. 

more resources: Slow Cooker Lemon Herb Pulled Chicken 

2 | MEAL PLANS ARE COMPLICATED AND TAKE HOURS TO CREATE

One meal planning myth that many of us believe is that planning is complicated and must take hours to do.

And, if you start from scratch with a pile of cookbooks and no process to guide you, planning cantake forever.

The Simpler Way: Create a stress-free weekly meal map organized around meal types. 

Instead of setting out to create a complicated meal plan, think instead about creating a loose map to follow, with just enough structure to guide you. 

And, instead of planning for individual recipes, think about meal types such as tacos, pasta, bowls, stir-frys, and salads. 

Once you’ve decided on the meal types for the week, decide how you’re going to combine the Essential Six. 

Choose a sauce to use, then move through the list by selecting a protein, veggies, and so on.

more resources: ditch the complicated meal plan and try this instead

3 | GROCERY SHOPPING HAS TO BE OVERWHELMING AND TIME-CONSUMING

Do you ever find yourself wandering around the grocery store without a plan, grabbing whatever looks interesting, only to get home and not know what to do with what you bought?

Or, do you bring home bags of groceries only to throw out the majority of food at the end of the week because you don’t know what to do with it?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you are not alone. Grocery shopping without a plan can be challenging, and can lead to frustration and disappointment.

The Simpler Way: Streamline grocery shopping.

Think about the Essential Six and meal types when you’re grocery shopping. 

Bonus points for outlining a meal map and using the meal map to create a quick grocery list before you go shopping.

more resources: how to create a capsule pantry

4 | MEAL PLANNING HAS TO BE A DREADED CHORE 

Many of us think of meal planning as a dreaded chore, right up there with laundry folding or bathroom cleaning. 

And who wants to spend their precious weekend hours on a dreaded chore? I know I don’t.

The Simpler Way: Make prep an enjoyable part of your weekly routine.

By thinking of meal planning in terms of the Essential Six and meal types, you’ll automatically make the process simpler and more streamlined.

With practice, creating a meal map and grocery list can become an effortless part of your weekly routine.

A few of my favorite tips to make it more enjoyable:

Schedule a time that works for you.

Maybe it’s during your child’s afternoon nap, a lazy Sunday afternoon, or late at night when everyone’s in bed.

  • Set aside a special time to plan in your favorite comfy spot. Create rituals around this time to make it something you look forward to.
  • Play your favorite music or podcast and pour yourself a glass of wine or warm cup of tea.
  • Celebrate the time invested by enjoying the food all week long.

more resources: no fail meal planning tips (for people who hate meal planning)

5 | YOU MUST PLAN SEVEN MEALS EACH WEEK

There is definitely a misconception out there that if you’re going to meal plan, it needs to be for the entire week.

For most, planning seven days worth of meals is an impossible standard, and one that discourages many from even getting started.

The Simpler Way: Anything is Better Than Nothing.

If you’re new to meal planning, or have struggled with complicated systems in the past, try reducing the number of meals you map.

Two or three is a great number to start with.

Experiment with the number that works for you and that is actually sustainable in your weekly routine.

Do you have a simplify meal planning? Share your process below, and tag @realfoodwholelife on Instagram so I can see what you're up to!

how to create a capsule pantry for simplified cooking

simplified meal planningRobyn DownsComment

Like a capsule wardrobe, a capsule pantry helps you simplify, streamline, and create time & space for what you love. Here's how to do it.

Tips for creating a simplified capsule pantry.

If you're new to the concept, a capsule wardrobe is essentially a mini wardrobe, comprised of a limited number of versatile pieces you love to wear.

Many who try capsule wardrobes fall in love with the sense of ease and liberation it provides.

Fewer decisions, less decision fatigue, and more time & space for what you love.

Who wouldn't want that?

By limiting the number of items purchased, and by having a clear sense of what to do with those pieces, the capsule wardrobe makes the process of getting dressed in the morning effortless and even joyful.

So, if the capsule wardrobe works so well when it comes to getting dressed in the morning, why not apply the same concepts to food?

CREATING A CAPSULE PANTRY WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU SHOP, PREPARE AND ENJOY REAL FOOD FOR GOOD. 

Similar to a capsule wardrobe, a capsule pantry is made of up a limited number of versatile ingredients that you love to eat, and that can be combined into a variety of easy, delicious meals.

So how do you do it?

Read on for a step-by-step to creating your own capsule pantry.

Tips for creating a simplified capsule pantry.

1 | CLEAN IT OUT

The first step is clearing out and cleaning up your fridge, freezer and pantry. Here’s how.

Start with you freezer:

  • Take everything out and toss anything that’s old, unlabeled or freezer-burned.
  • Get rid of anything that’s taking up space, including the processed stuff.
  • If it has more than 5 ingredients, it’s best to toss it.

Next, move on to your fridge and pantry: 

  • Same rules apply. If it’s old or unusable, toss it.
  • If it’s processed (e.g., more than 5 ingredients, contains unrecognizable ingredients, or added sugar) let it go.
  • Half used bottles, mystery containers, ingredients that are way past their expiration date, these should go, too.

2 | PLAN WITH PURPOSE

Now it’s time to restock, but this time with purpose.

The key to streamlined planning is thinking in terms of the Essential Six.

The Essential Six are the fundamental building blocks of any recipe: sauces, protein, cooked veggies, raw veggies, grains + bases, and toppings + extras. 

Thinking in terms of building blocks allows you to combine them into an infinite number different meals. Think bowls, tacos, pasta, salads, and stir-frys, just to name a few.

Using the Essential Six method allows you to efficiently shop, plan and prep, without wasted time or money. 

As an added bonus, you can create a fridge and pantry filled with ingredients that actually go together, no matter what you’re cooking. 

Plus, thinking of meals in terms of the Essential Six allows you to efficiently prep just part of a meal, without cooking the entire meals ahead. 

Ready to give it a try?

Before you head to the grocery store, create a list organized by the Essential Six. 

more resources: no fail meal planning tips for people who hate meal planning

3 | SHOP INTENTIONALLY 

Instead of wandering around the grocery store without a plan, use your Essential Six grocery list as a guide.

Before you put something in your cart, think about how you might use it during the week. 

Is this a protein you enjoy and know how to prepare?

Do you have items representing each Essential Six?

Or have you stocked up on one category but forgotten the others?

Ask yourself these questions before checking out.

Eventually thinking in terms of the Essential Six will become second nature, and creating a list will happen in a matter of minutes.

more resources: ditch the complicated meal plan (and try this instead)

4 | USE WHAT YOU HAVE

Once you’ve unloaded your groceries, take stock of what you have and create a general plan.

Instead of creating a complicated meal plan, think instead about creating a loose map to follow, with just enough structure to guide you. 

And, instead of planning for individual recipes, think about meal types such as tacos, pasta, bowls, stir-frys, and salads. 

If it helps, place like-items together in you fridge and pantry (e.g., proteins, grains + bases) so you can create meals on the fly.

Items left at the end of the week can be frozen or used to create an “anything goes” meal using the Essential Six for structure.

Creating a capsule pantry is about streamlining meal planning + prep, knowing what you need, and using what you have.

It’s also about creating effortless meals that you actually enjoy eating.

Do you have a capsule pantry? Share why you love it below, and tag @realfoodwholelife on Instagram so I can see what you're up to!

ditch the complicated meal plan (and try this instead)

simplified meal planningRobyn DownsComment

Ready to ditched complicated meal planning in favor of a simple, streamlined system and streamlined? Here's how!

How to ditch the complicating meal plan forever and tips for simplified meal planning.

Meal planning.

It is something that's always on your to-do list but somehow never actually happens?

Or is it something you dread because it seems time-consuming and boring?

Trust me, I'm right there with you.

For years meal planning was on my dreaded chore list, and even though I knew having a plan would change the game, I always avoided it.

I was overwhelmed and out of balance, and between the demands of work and family, I struggled to find the time to get organized.

I felt like I needed an extra 6 hours just to meal plan.

And those were 6 hours I didn’t have.

Of course, I tried complicated meal plans, but struggled with unwieldy grocery lists and cooking new recipes each night.

I dreaded grocery shopping, and felt guilty about the amount of unused food I ended up throwing away.

Sound familiar?

The good news: there is a better way.

A much simpler way.

I’ve finally ditched complicated meal planning in favor of a simple, streamlined system, and I've never looked back.

Today I'm happy to share 5 simple steps to help you ditch the complicated meal plan and still eat healthy, beautiful food every night of the week.

Here's how . . .

How to ditch the complicating meal plan forever and tips for simplified meal planning.

1 | CREATE A CAPSULE PANTRY

A million ingredients weigh you down and clutter your fridge and pantry.

Plus, extra ingredients often end up unused, resulting in wasted food and waisted money.

Instead of buying random ingredients that don't work together, create a pantry of intentionally selected, mix-and-match ingredients.

Like a capsule wardrobe, a capsule pantry is made of up a limited number of versatile ingredients that you love to eat, and that can be combined into a variety of easy, delicious meals.

When your pantry, fridge and freezer is filled with essentials, you'll be able to buy only what you need, and know how to use what you have.

more resources: How to Create a Capsule Pantry for Simplified Cooking

2 | SIMPLIFY  

We've all fallen into the trap of planning to make a bunch of complicated recipes each week, only to find that we're too exhausted halfway through the week to be able to follow through.

Instead of trying to plan a different set of complicated recipes each week, try flipping the script to think instead about recipe building blocks.

Recipe building blocks, or the Essential Six, are the essential components of any recipe: sauces, protein, cooked veggies, raw veggies, grains + bases, and toppings + extras.

Thinking in terms of building blocks simplifies planning and streamlines cooking, allowing you to take full advantage of your capsule fridge and pantry.

Once you start thinking of meals in terms of the Essential Six, you'll be able to effortlessly combine them into an infinite number different meals.

Think bowls, tacos, pasta, salads, and stir-frys, just to name a few.

Plus, using the Essential Six method allows you to efficiently shop, plan and prep, without wasted time or money.

more resources: No Fail Meal Planning Tips (for People Who Hate Meal Planning)

3 | DON’T MEAL PLAN, MEAL MAP

Traditional meal planning is often too rigid and doesn't leave room for flexibility within any given week.

Instead of setting out to create a complicated meal plan, think instead about creating a loose map to follow, with just enough structure to guide you.

To create a meal map, simply select a meal type for each day you plan to cook. 

So, instead of planning for individual recipes, think about mapping a few meal types, such as tacos, pasta, bowls, stir-frys, and salads.  

Then, once you’ve decided on meal types for the week, check your Capsule Pantry to see what you have on hand.

From there, make a loose plan for how you'll mix-and-match the Essential Six.

Choose a sauce to use, then move through the list by selecting a protein, veggies, and so on.

Create a quick grocery list to round-out what you have on hand, an you're good to go. 

Want to give try meal mapping in action?

more resources: Slow Cooker Lemon Herb Pulled Chicken + 3 Ways to Use It

4 | STREAMLINE

Put together a streamline process for creating a cohesive Capsule Pantry that works with the Essential Six so that you save time and have fewer decisions to make when it comes to getting dinner on the table.

more resources: Meal Planning Myths (and Why It's Not As Complicated As You Think)

What are your favorite ways to simplify meal planning? Share them below, and tag @realfoodwholelife on Instagram so I can see what you're up to!