If you're looking to add a bit more structure and consistency to the way you eat, you need to know about meal planning. This approach to your weekly menus changes everything, from the recipes you use and the nutrition and calorie counts in your meals to the groceries you buy. Whether you're already familiar with meal planning or a newcomer, we've got all the info you need right here.
In this post, we'll teach you how to make a personalized meal plan that fits your lifestyle. We'll cover everything from the reasons to try meal planning to how to make your own grocery list.
Let's get started!
First Off: What Is Meal Planning?
Meal planning is an approach to eating that involves making your weekly menu in advance, then cooking meals based on your personalized plan.
You can make your weekly meal plans as simple or complex as you want – they can even include nutrition information like calorie counts, macros, nutrients, and any other information that will help you reach your health goals. If you’re just concerned about catering to your food preferences or allergies, a meal plan is a fantastic way to cater to those dietary needs as well.
Making a custom meal plan is easy – you don't need the help of a professional meal planner to do it. All you need is a database of healthy, delicious recipes and a clear sense of your health or weight loss goals.
Why Try Meal Planning?
There are plenty of great reasons to give meal planning a try. Here are the biggest perks of taking this unique approach to eating.
Meal Planning Can Help You Stick to a Specific Lifestyle
Whether you eat vegan, low-carb, no-dairy, gluten-free, or anything in between, meal planning can help to ensure you’re staying within the parameters of your diet. Here’s how.
By planning out your meals in advance, a personalized meal plan gives you everything you need to eat a specific diet throughout the week. You’ll know exactly what you need to shop for at the grocery store and have healthy recipes ready to go whenever it’s time to eat.
Meal planning introduces you to creative new recipes that match your lifestyle. At JOW, we’ve got a massive database of recipes that fit perfectly into your meal plan – no matter what your favorite way to eat is. When you make your meal plan with us, we’ll make sure to give you plenty of inspiring ideas and recipes that will make it as fun as possible to cook. We’ve got recipes to accommodate everyone, including low-carb meals, vegan dishes, and more.
Making Your Own Meal Plan Can Motivate You to Cook More
If you’ve been wanting to spend more time in the kitchen, meal planning can help. Here’s how.
- It’s much easier to cook when you’ve got tons of recipes to try. At JOW, we believe cooking should be simple and fun. That’s why we give everyone free access to our recipes. We’ll even order all of your ingredients for you from your local grocery store – all you have to do is pay and pick them up.
- Meal planning helps you make a habit of cooking. The more you cook, the more you’ll want to cook! Our recipe database makes it easy to get inspired to cook meals you love, and you’ll find yourself wanting to get in the kitchen as often as possible after a while.
Meal Planning Can Help You Reach Your Weight Loss Goals
If you’re trying to shed some extra pounds, adding more consistency and structure to the way you eat can be a big help.
One of the biggest selling points for meal planning is that it’s not a diet – it’s a long-term sustainable way of cooking and eating that’s focused on health. So, what are the key differences between meal planning and dieting?
Meal Planning Is Helpful for Long-Term Goals
Meal planning is intended to work for the long haul, whereas most diet plans only promise short-term results. If you’ve dieted frequently throughout your adult life, you’re probably very familiar with the infamous “yo-yo” effect that tends to happen after you’ve met your weight loss goals. You may have found in the past that you lost weight successfully on a diet but ended up gaining that weight back within a few months.
To avoid yo-yoing, meal planning gives you an eating strategy that helps you maintain a healthy weight for good. Instead of encouraging making extreme changes to the way you eat, your meal plan is meant to provide consistency and structure for your meals, allowing you to lose weight and keep it off.
Meal Planning Isn’t Restrictive
If you’re already familiar with diet culture, you’ve probably done your fair share of eliminating certain foods from your daily meals for set periods of time. While there is some merit to eating less of the foods that aren’t necessarily good for you, restrictive diets tend to put unnecessary pressure on the eater, making them less sustainable in the long run. Meal planning, on the other hand, doesn’t have to be restrictive at all.
Unlike what you might have experienced with many diets, you can include dessert, snacks, and other treats in your meal plans. The meal planning philosophy encourages moderation and balance – but not restriction – with treats.
Meal Planning Is Adjustable
You can adjust your calorie goals and macronutrient goals whenever you need to. Meal planning is flexible, making it easy for anyone with weight loss goals to adapt their meal plans as needed.
For example, if you start requiring a higher daily calorie intake due to increased activity level, you can easily make a quick adjustment to your meal plan by adding in a snack or an extra serving of a side dish to your daily menu. You can easily match your meals to your workout plan to ensure you’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need.
You Can Make Your Own Meal Plan – No Dietician Required
At JOW, we’re all about helping you find simple ways to enjoy your food as much as possible. We can even help you make your own meal plans – for free.
When you sign up, you’ll get access to our massive database of recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and more. All of these recipes include detailed instructions, nutrition facts, and helpful instructional videos you can use while you’re in the kitchen. The recipes are fantastic resources for avid meal planners, and they make it easy to never run out of ideas for tasty meals to add to your weekly menu.
While a nutritionist or registered dietitian might charge you a hefty fee for each individual meal plan that you receive, we’ll help you make your own meal plans free of charge. All we need is a bit of information about your diet, what you like and dislike when it comes to food, and the number of members in your household. We’ll also need to make sure we don’t recommend any recipes that require equipment you don’t have in your kitchen.
Once you’re signed up, we’ll get to work on making you a meal plan that perfectly fits with how you like to eat. We’ll even order all of your ingredients for you from the nearest grocery store, so all you have to do is pick them up and get cooking.
Getting Started With Meal Planning
Follow these steps to make your own meal plan in no time.
Start With Recipes
The first step to take when making your own meal plan is finding a wide range of recipes you love. You’ll be using these recipes to plan out meals for any desired period of time, from a week to several weeks to a month. We highly recommend using recipes from our cooking page.
Aim to find enough recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to keep your meals diverse and interesting. You don’t want to be eating the same things over and over, so it’s definitely worth the extra effort to make an expansive menu.
Once you have enough recipes to choose from, it’s time to put them all in one place, so they’re easily accessible. If you’re using recipes from our cooking page, you can save all of your favorites as bookmarks in a folder or even print them out to keep them handy in the kitchen.
Make a Plan for Getting Ingredients
When you start meal planning, you’re likely to find yourself going shopping quite a bit more often than you did before. This is a good thing – it means you’re cooking often and enjoying what you cook! However, it also means you’ll need to make time for additional trips to the grocery store whenever necessary.
To save you some time, we highly recommend ordering your groceries through JOW. Whenever you build a weekly menu with us, we’ll order your groceries for you anytime you want. That means you can save precious time throughout the week that you’d otherwise be spending walking around the store pushing a shopping cart.
Most grocery stores offer free pickup for orders that pass a certain price, so ordering your groceries for a whole week in one trip may save you money in the long run. It’s also a great idea to try and find the closest grocery store to where you live and make it your pickup site. That way, you’ll save money on gas.
Get Containers To Store Your Prepped Meals
One key aspect of meal planning is making plenty of food in advance and enjoying it throughout the week. To make your meal planning efforts as successful as possible, we recommend picking up a set of reusable containers you can use to store your meals. Microwavable containers are best, as you’ll most likely be reheating your food several days after you’ve cooked it.
Whenever you store a pre-cooked meal in the fridge or freezer, it’s always a good idea to mark it with the date it was cooked. That way, you won’t run the risk of accidentally eating food that’s gone bad.
Add Variety Whenever You Feel Stuck in a Rut
One of the biggest concerns at-home cooks have about meal planning is the fear that it might get boring. To avoid getting stuck in a mundane routine of cooking the same meals over and over, we think it’s a great idea to switch your menu every week.
With JOW’s meal planning app, it’s so easy to find new recipes, and you’ll virtually never run out of new dishes to make! It’ll be quick and convenient, and before long, you’ll find that you’ve figured out the best meal plan process for yourself.
Ready to Start Meal Planning?
Now you know how to make your own meal plan, it’s time to put that knowledge into action. You can get started by visiting our grocery page, where we’ll collect some basic information from you before making you a personalized menu.
You’ll start choosing your favorite recipes, and before you know it, you’ll have the healthy meal plan of your dreams—all while spending less time worrying about it.