Mastering Meal Planning for Busy Lifestyles

Does meal planning never quite go as planned? I met Tony & Melissa, a young “chef” couple and immediately knew I had to get their take on meal planning for a busy life. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do…

Life can feel like a total whirlwind, with schedules filled to the brim sending us from activity to activity. The day flies by and next thing you know it’s time for dinner and bedtime. Amidst all this chaos, ensuring that you have daily meals prepared or even planned can seem like a complete chore. Luckily for us our profession makes meal planning pretty second nature after implementing it into our own routines, so we wanted to share these tips with you. 

We totally understand that meal planning isn’t sexy or cool like going to an expensive restaurant where they give you deliciously beautiful meals. It’s the weekly homework that we were assigned as kids that most of us hated, but it can get better. Once you start and keep up with it not only does it get easier, but you can also add in new and exciting recipes to try because as you continue with follow through you also grow your culinary muscles. 

Benefits of Meal Planning

Organization: Knowing what you have planned for meals during the week will help keep your life more organized for not just meals but also groceries, shopping, budget, and kitchen organization.

Time: It will take some time to grow your skills in planning and execution, but what we have seen in our clients is that once they get going, planning ahead saves them time in the long run.

Budget: When you plan ahead knowing what your budget is and what you need for the week, it’s a lot easier to stick to a budget. Having a plan also sets you up to having a better chance of avoiding those impulse buys throughout the store since you will have a list of exactly what you need.

Healthy: We know about it firsthand from working in professional kitchens. Not only are portions at restaurants usually bigger, but they also generally have more calories, sodium, sugar and unhealthy fats. When cooking at home YOU control what goes in your food.

How to Create a Flexible Meal Plan

There is not a one size fits all on meal plans, we even did a post on finding a meal plan that fits, that you can check out HERE. We recommend checking it out later if you haven’t already. We all have different family sizes, schedules and activity levels making flexibility in a meal plan super important. Our approach for many families including our own is a flexible meal plan. This allows for having plans that adapt to your schedule and accommodate unexpected changes that may occur. Here is an example of what a flexible meal plan can look like:

3 Main Course Dinners: planned and cooked ahead for easy reheat during the week. Enough for them to last most or all of the week.

Breakfast and Lunch: favorite ingredients on hand for things such as parfaits and shakes for breakfast. Soup made ahead for lunch and/or salad prep done ahead as well.

Snacks: easy grab and go snacks, fruit, and simple cut veggies.

1 Emergency Meal: stored in the freezer for back up. This meal can also be an eat out or order in meal as well. 


Select a Plan and Stick With it

When starting something new it takes time to grow your skill and turn it into a routine. It generally takes between 18-254 days to form a new habit and about 66 days for a new behavior to be more automatic. The more you do it the easier it becomes and the more likely it is that you will continue it. That being said, we recommend selecting your plan and really stick to it for 90 days. That really gives you the time to see what you like and don’t like in order to adjust it if need be. Of course, we do understand that there may be a need for some minor changes throughout the 90 days but avoid drastic changes. 

Utilize Quick and Easy Recipes

Starting with easy recipes with simple ingredients, steps and that are also quick are a great way to keep your motivation up and overwhelm down. These easy wins with simple recipes are great motivators for you to continue in your meal planning journey. The best part is that there are many recipes that can be done in about 30 minutes making them a huge win for a busy lifestyle.

Batch Cooking or Prepping in Advance

Along with planning out your meals, another helpful step would be cooking all of your meals for the week ahead of time on one day of the week or prepping the ingredients so that each recipe can be done quickly the day of. For us we have found that cooking the meals ahead of time is probably the best route for most families. Why? Because then it’s done, all you have to do is heat it up and enjoy it. We have found that people are more likely to reheat something to enjoy vs cooking the prep. In fact, when we were doing meal prep for clients it killed us each week to see the prep that was wasted because the family was too busy for daily cooking. Because of that we dropped meal prep completely and just cooked meals for clients. Our goal was to help families, not have them waste massive amounts of food, so we recommend if you are super busy, pick a day to cook your meals for the week ahead of time.

Online Meal Plan Resources

While there are a number of different meal plan sites, we do happen to love ours. Two Chef Meal Plans has preset menus that we have put together with similar ingredients, a section for your own saved collections, recipes to pick from, simple allergy substitutions, and an editable shopping list. Our recipes also integrate with Instacart which is a huge bonus for those that want someone else to shop for them. We made the site with the flexibility of a family’s needs in mind. We know there are tons of great meal planning apps and sites to look through but, we would love for you to check out ours.

Two Chef Mission is a husband and wife team with over 15 years of experience each in the culinary industry. With their passion they’re not just cooking, they’re crafting culinary experiences tailored to families and entrepreneurs unique tastes and needs. Their journey has been about more than just food; it’s about sharing creativity, simplifying your kitchen, and making life deliciously convenient. From themed menus to allergy-friendly options, meal delivery to private chef events, they are here to customize and elevate your dining experience. 

7 Practical Steps to Cultivate Better Balance and Wellbeing

In the daily rush, better balance and wellbeing can feel elusive. Like something we’ll get to when life gets back to normal. But here’s the thing: there is no perfect time. And trust me – you have the tools at your disposal to make it achievable. 

Here are seven practical steps you can take to cultivate genuine wellbeing, lasting balance, and even make strides towards your health and weight loss goals. As you consider each one, embrace the idea that these aren’t distant ideals but attainable realities.

**Step 1: Reduce Mental Overwhelm**

The stories we tell shape our lives. When you dwell on busyness, ruminate on past decisions, or indulge in self-pity, you create overwhelm for yourself. If you catch yourself doing this, redirect your focus to what you do control and identify your next best step. When you strike this mental balance, overwhelm subsides. 

**Step 2: Prioritize Your Wellbeing**

Reclaim your personal time. Block out weekends on your calendar. If that feels like too much, start with a few hours here and there. Ensure you make time for regular moments of rejuvenation and enjoyment. 

**Step 3: Disconnect to Reconnect**

Our digital age requires that we create our own work-life balance, because tech won’t automatically do it for us! Silence non-urgent notifications from apps and email, and create automated weekend email responses, soaking in a little peace and quiet. 

Photo by Annemiek Smegen on Unsplash

**Step 4: Mindful Moments**

I’ll be honest. I like to scroll now and then. IG has some freaking funny cat reels and 80’s GenX videos that I totally relate to. But mindless scrolling can end up wasting time rather than refreshing us. Find intentional ways to savor your free time. Tune into the beauty around you, compliment a stranger, or strike up a chat. Treat these mindful moments like a spa day for your mental and emotional health.

**Step 5: Reduce Sugar Intake**

Sugar might give you a quick pick-me-up, but it can wreck you on the other end. Blood sugar swings and urges for more sugar leave you exhausted. (Not to mention beating yourself up for eating junk food that you really didn’t want and made you feel like crap.) Have your go-to meals and snacks ready for any situation. And stay hydrated with water. Your mind and body will be all smiles!

**Step 6: Seek Support**

Whether you’re struggling in your personal or professional life, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Simply discussing issues with colleagues, friends or mentors can build a network to help maintain your health. If you need more focused support for challenges related to sticking with healthy habits, consider coaching with me.

**Step 7:Use the Key Word**

Balance is all about knowing when to say yes and when to wield the mighty “no.” While saying yes can be tempting, it’s essential to say no when overcommitting would tip the scales. Embrace the power of saying no in order to protect your time, energy, and well-being.

When life comes at you fast, balance is your ticket to success, personally and professionally. It’s not a static place to “get to” but rather a way of life that you cultivate. Keep prioritizing better balance and wellbeing; they’re your path to being a Healthy Hottie and living the life you want.

How to make your healthy habits easier

Ever notice that when people talk about making healthy changes, it’s often about what they’re eliminating?

“I cut out sugar.”
“I stopped drinking wine for the month.”
“I’m on a social media fast.”

None of these are bad. In fact, they may lead to better health and maybe weight loss. But excitement fades. Willpower conks out. It feels hard. And when that happens, it’s easier to fall back into old behaviors. And the same old result.

If you want easy healthy habits, try adding rather than subtracting. Meaning, add something to your routine instead of giving something up. This small shift can help maintain interest in the new habits without feeling deprived. 

My clients find that once they get used to the things they’ve added, two things can happen. One, they have less room/time/energy for the things that they want to eliminate. And two, the momentum from adding healthy habits may create a natural motivation to stop some of the things that felt so hard before.  

Keep the steps as small as they need to be. As they become your norm, it’s easier to add more

Here are my “50 adds” you can use to help build your own set of easy healthy habits:

Food habit adds

  1. Take lunch away from the office (if you eat at your desk daily, start with once a week) 
  2. Diced/riced broccoli & cauliflower – easy to add to salads and bowls
  3. Morning glass of water – rehydrate after a night’s sleep
  4. Smoothie – get lots of fruits & veggies with one “stone”
  5. Flax/chia/hemp seeds – add to smoothies, oatmeal, and use in baked goods
  6. Spiralized zucchini – a veggie alternative to pasta
  7. Spaghetti squash – another “pasta” option
  8. Almonds – I love Trader Joe’s individual packets; I stash them everywhere
  9. Use a mashed banana as a sweetener for oatmeal, instead of sugar
  10. Cucumber and mint to your water – refreshing, without sugar or sweeteners
  11. Ever try nut cheese? Seriously.
  12. Make your own salad dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt & pepper to taste
  13. Learn to use flax or chia seeds as “eggs” when baking
  14. Dark chocolate (72% and up)
  15. Eat your last meal three hours before bed
  16. Find one new healthy recipe that you and your household will enjoy
  17. Almond flour – look for a pancake recipe
  18. Turmeric – it has excellent anti-inflammatory properties (combine with black pepper for maximum benefit)
Photo by <a href="">Guillaume Jaillet</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>
Photo by Guillaume Jaillet on Unsplash

Exercise & movement habit adds

  1. Set an alarm to stand up and move every hour (sitting is the new smoking!)
  2. When you sit back down, exaggeratedly roll your shoulders back five times
  3. Two extra minutes of walking when you go to the bathroom
  4. Plan your exercise the night before
  5. A 5-minute back-up (for when something happens to derail your exercise plans)
  6. 30-second plank in the morning
  7. Do 3 minutes of easy movement to work out the kinks each morning
  8. Another two minutes of exercise (once you’ve done 30 minutes, what’s two more?!)
  9. Increase the intensity of your cardio workout once a week
  10. One more strength training exercise
  11. One more rep or set
  12. Increase the weight 10% for one exercise
  13. A stretch for each muscle group you worked out
  14. A new class (virtual or in person)
  15. A new cardio machine
  16. Active rest activity (brainstorm ways to be active during your day)

Workday habit adds

  1. Keep water or unsweetened tea at your desk and drink it by the time you leave the office
  2. Open mail over the recycle bin 
  3. Batch computer tasks, like email, so they don’t overtake your day
  4. Schedule appointments when they fit your rhythm
  5. Say “let me get back to you” when you’re asked to do something, to avoid answering to quickly and overcommitting 

Mindset habit adds

  1. Read your vision first thing, then close your eyes and imagine how your day will unfold
  2. Say “you could be right about that” rather than respond hotly to a heated situation
  3. Assume others are doing the best they can
  4. Assume you are, too
  5. Expect things to go well
  6. Finish the day expressing appreciation to your significant other or close family member

Wellness habit adds

  1. A sleep mask to block out the light
  2. A yearly physical
  3. An uplifting podcast
  4. Massage 
  5. Meditation or breath work 

It’s natural to want to eliminate unhealthy behaviors, and you can. It’s just that when you take extreme actions it can lead to feeling deprived and, ultimately, cause you to backlash. (That’s code for lounging on the couch, elbow-deep in a bag of Cheetos while watching Stranger Things.) 

As you add healthy, positive “things” they may gradually overtake the unhealthy habits you want to quit. You can create a lifestyle of easy healthy habits by focusing on the additions.

Want help in making lasting change that feels a lot easier? Let’s talk.

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