The maniac’s guide to meal planning (with free stuff!): part 4 of 4

Meal planning part 4 of 4
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This is the third post of a four-part series on meal planning like a boss–even when life’s crazy.
The first post can be found here.
The second post can be found here.
The third post can be found here.

Friends, we’ve covered how to stay healthy + energized during those crazy, zero-kitchen-time weeks known as Crunch Weeks.

We’ve gotten real about upping the fresh ingredients during your slightly sane, somewhat more balanced (aka: typical) weeks–the Breathing Space Weeks.

Today’s focus, then, is on:

  1. Making the most of your Vacation Weeks (the best weeks!)
  2. Effectively planning for each week to make healthy eating as hassle-free as possible (resources for this below).
If Crunch Week and Breathing Space week are about fitting in fresh fruits and veggies wherever possible, then Vacation Week is about goin’ wild with ‘em. This could be as simple as tossing a ginormous salad together for dinner, but it doesn’t have to be–now that you have the time, consider treatin’ yo’self to the really good stuff. Get fancy. Bonus points for any dish that can be packed up for lunch the next day*.
Breakfasts: who can say no to pancakes, or breakfast burritos, or pumpkin bread in a bowl?
Lunches + Dinners: here’s how to make awesome, goliath-sized salads without getting totally bored, and if you have time to actually pack a sandwich in the AM, this one and this one look uuuuhmazing.
Snacks: Fresh fruits, veggies with  buffalo chickpea dip (drooool), and any foods that still look the way they did before they reached the grocery store (read: not Cheetos) are a good choice for this kinda week.
*I cook because it’s therapy, but totally realize that’s not the case for everyone. If you don’t want to spend your precious free hours in front of the stove, consider making a double batch of one or two fancy dishes at the beginning of the week, then freezing individual portions of the leftovers for effortless healthy eating over the following days.

A note on recipes vs. formulas

You may have noticed throughout this series that I’ve included links to specific recipes and to flexible formulas. Both have their perks.

Recipes allow cooks of any level create something spectacular, even if the only “cooking” you’ve ever done is burn a few Pop Tarts. I scavenge for new recipes like a fiend, and never really run out of new ideas that way. However, I realize you may prefer to spend your free time doing more exciting things than stare at photos of someone else’s food. If that’s the case, and you therefore keep reusing the same recipes over and over, you’re bound to get sick of them eventually—who wouldn’t?—and rebel, likely by way of the nearest takeout joint. This is where formulas come in.

Using a formula allows you to mix and match ingredients depending on your taste, on what’s in season, and on what you haven’t already eaten for three weeks straight. This is what keeps me from giving up on the grains + veggies + protein lunch; I can make it radically different from week to week, or I can keep enjoying the same thing if I happen upon a combo that I’m crazy about.

A note on “cheat” meals

Planning your meals down to the very last bite is like quitting every single one of your favorite guilty pleasure foods cold turkey—admirable, but not super realistic. And as empowering as it is to start each week with a stock of seriously nourishing food, it’s also sanity-saving to consider how you’ll react when something does go awry. As you begin to more systematically plan your weeks and what you’re gonna eat for the next several days, hang on to these formulas:

  • 7 (days) x 3 (meals per day) = 21 meals
  • 7 (days) x 2 (snacks per day) = 14 snacks

Twenty-one meals, 14 snacks. That’s a lot of food, yo. And just as one salad won’t suddenly make you skinny or reverse all of your health problems, one stack of diner pancakes won’t do the opposite. Sometimes, it’s okay to indulge.

Resources

Download these meal planning + grocery list templates (they’re totally free) to make planning your healthy week super straightforward. They’re taken, page for page, right out of the Eat Well. Party Hard. ebook:

Eat Well. Party Hard. meal planning template (PDF)
Eat Well. Party Hard. grocery list template (PDF)

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