Real Food Whole Life

Simplified Guide to Meal Prep & Planning

simplified meal planningRobyn DownsComment

Simplifying meal prep & planning is an absolute game changer when it comes to eating beautiful, real, healthy food.

Because meal prep & planning doesn’t have to be complicated, boring, or time consuming.

Read on for the Simplified Guide to Meal Planning & Prep.

Simplified tips to make meal planning and meal prep easy with a free downloadable guide. #realfoodwholelife #realfoodwholelifesimplify #mealplanning #mealprep #foodprep #mealprepping #mealprepmonday #mealprepsunday #cleaneating

The Why

Simplifying meal planning and prep takes a some upfront work, and also requires a mindset shift.

The time and work to learn a new process and shift your thinking is so worth it, though, as it will allow you to streamline, reduce decision fatigue, and create time and space for what you really love.

1 | Streamline

Designating time and space for meal prep & planning allows you to streamline the entire process of eating healthy, vibrant, real food, saving you precious time, money, and wasted effort in the long term.

2 | Reduce Decision Fatigue

Deciding what to make for dinner and gathering the correct ingredients requires mental energy better spent on other things.

By simplifying the process, you’ll reduce decision fatigue and have more mental energy for the things that matter most.

3 | Create More Time and Space for What You Love

Simplifying means less time spent on scrambling at the last minute, which means you’ll have more time and space for what you love, while still enjoying beautiful, healthy food, everyday.

Create a Capsule Pantry

The first step in simplifying meal prep & planning is creating a clean, organized space.

Creating a Capsule Pantry is a great place to start when you’re ready to simplify.

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

Here are 3 simple steps to create a Capsule Pantry.

1 | Clear-Out

Take an inventory of your fridge, freezer and pantry, then ditch anything that’s old, unlabeled or freezer-burned.

2 | Rule of 5

Do a quick scan of the ingredient list on any packaged food. If the list has more than 5 ingredients or with words you can’t pronounce, go ahead and toss those, too.

3 | See Clearly

Store grains, nuts, seeds, and snacks in clear glass jars so you can see what you have and to keep ingredients fresher, longer.

Tip: Nuts, seeds and whole grains last longer if you store them in the fridge or freezer.

 
Take it next level by grabbing our free guide to Simplified Meal Planning & Prep. Scroll to the end of this post to download your copy!
Free downloadable printable! Simplified Guide to Meal Prep & Planning.
 

Focus on the Essentials

Now that you’ve created space, it’s time to get organized.

Focus on adding back the essentials so that you can create versatile real food meals with ease.

Here are 3 simple steps to get Focused on the Essentials:

1 | Organize

Gather ingredients and organize them by type.

For example, group proteins together in the freezer, and place grains + bases together in the pantry.

2 | Audit

Prior to creating your grocery list, do a quick audit of your fridge, freezer & pantry to see what needs restocking. Then make your grocery list to fill in the gaps.

Tip: Stock up on the essentials such as grains, beans, and protein when they go on sale, online, or at your local wholesale store.

Freeze what you can’t use within a few days in individual serving sizes.

3 | Quality Over Quantity

Less is more when it comes simplifying real, healthy food. If your budget allows, invest in higher quality ingredients for maximum flavor.

Real Food 1-2-3

When it comes to simplified meal prep & planning, it’s all about ditching complicated plans and endless hours prepping.

Simplifying starts with a 1-2-3 process. Here’s how to do it.

1 | Meal Types

Instead of relying on complicated recipes, focuses instead on meal types.

By starting with meal types instead of rigid recipes, you’ll be able to create a loose plan that allows for greater flexibility and ease in the process.

The Meal Types:

Meal Types

2 | The Essential Six

Focus on the building blocks of any recipe, or The Essential Six, which can be combined to create fresh new meal types each week.

The Essential Six:

The Essential Six

3 | The Mix & Match Method

Simply select a meal type, then mix & match the Essential Six to create versatile, customized meals.

Scroll to the end of this post to grab your free guide to Simplify Meal Planning & Prep!

Prep with Focus

Like meal planning, simplified meal prep doesn’t have to take hours.

Streamline your process by focusing on prepping the Essential Six, then using the Mix-and-Match Method to prepare weeknight meals, effortlessly.

1 | Start with a Sauce

If you only have a few minutes, consider preparing a few sauces for the week to keep in the fridge and add variety to any meal.

2 | Add a Grain or Base

With a little more time, try prepping some grains for bases for the week.

3 | Go for Protein

Whip up a batch or two of protein, and you’re well on your way to streamlined weeknight meals.

Shift Your Mindset

Like most things that matter, simplifying meal prep & planning takes time and a powerful mindset shift.

#gentleisthenewperfect

Letting go of perfect when it comes to meal prep & planning will make all the difference in sustained, long term success.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, or all-or-nothing.

Start small. Meal map one day. Prep one thing. Do what you can and let the rest go. You’ve got this.

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!

Download the Free Simplified Guide to Meal Prep & Planning

Free Simplified Guide to Meal Prep & Planning

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Simplified tips to make meal planning and meal prep easy with a free downloadable guide. #realfoodwholelife #realfoodwholelifesimplify #mealplanning #mealprep #foodprep #mealprepping #mealprepmonday #mealprepsunday #cleaneating

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. #realfoodwholelife #realfoodwholelifesimplify #mealplanning #cleaneating  #mealplan #mealplansunday #healthyeating #cleaneating

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. #realfoodwholelife #realfoodwholelifesimplify #mealplanning #cleaneating  #mealplan #mealplansunday #healthyeating #cleaneating

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.

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. #realfoodwholelife #realfoodwholelifesimplify #mealplanning #cleaneating  #mealplan #mealplansunday #healthyeating #cleaneating

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.

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. #realfoodwholelife #realfoodwholelifesimplify #mealplanning #cleaneating  #mealplan #mealplansunday #healthyeating #cleaneating

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!

Ready to ditched complicated meal planning in favor of a simple, streamlined system and streamlined? Here's how! #realfoodwholelife #realfoodwholelifesimplify #mealplanning #cleaneating  #mealplan #mealplansunday #healthyeating #cleaneating

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 . . .

Ready to ditched complicated meal planning in favor of a simple, streamlined system and streamlined? Here's how! #realfoodwholelife #realfoodwholelifesimplify #mealplanning #cleaneating  #mealplan #mealplansunday #healthyeating #cleaneating

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!