How To Plan Healthy Meals When Short On Time (And, Energy!)

Have you ever created a meal plan, only to realize the dinner you had planned for tonight will take too long to make?

Or, what about getting off work after a long (and stressful) day, with no energy left to make the meal you planned?

What about trying to add juicing to your daily meal plan, not realizing you just don’t have enough time?

Yeah?

Me too, and it stinks!

So today, I want to share some tips you can use to plan healthier meals when you’re working a lot, or are just STRAIGHT. UP. BUSY!

WHY PLAN IN THE FIRST PLACE?

The short answer is because it’s the best way to guarantee you eat healthily. If you want to get healthy, meal planning is the way to do it. When you don’t plan your meals, you’re more likely to end up in a situation where…

A.) You’re starving and then eating something you usually wouldn’t eat, say ice cream for lunch, or…

B). You have no healthy options, and have to compromise because you didn’t plan ahead.

When you take some time to get organized, you end up with the best possible options every time. You take control of the situation, and take responsibility for what you put into your body.

One of the many traits successful people have in common is that they’re planners. The same is true for healthy people – they know how to meal plan.

Below, I’m going to outline the “ingredients” needed to become a great meal planner, even when you’re up to your ears in work, or in family :) If you focus on these 5 things, you’ll be in good shape.

Ingredient #1 – Mindset

One thing I work on with all of my clients is mindset, and it’s equally important when it comes to meal planning. Your mind is a powerful tool, and you can use that to your advantage, but it can also keep you stuck.

If you’re always thinking about everything you have to do – all of your problems, and how you have zero time – you’re going to feel frustrated & overwhelmed.

Instead, Try This:

Pay attention to the words you’re using. Are you constantly saying “I have no time”, or “I’m too busy?” If so, try flipping it around and saying “I have plenty of time” or “everything that needs to get done always gets done”.  

It might feel weird at first, but eventually you’ll feel less stressed, and have more energy to take care of yourself.

Another important question to ask yourself is “How am I spending my time?” – because a lot of us (myself included) are spending hours on things that aren’t benefiting us.

For me, it’s usually Instagram stories, or funny Facebook videos.  

What about you? Are spending time watching TV when you could be cooking?

Probably.

I’m not saying no TV or Facebook, but do the planning & cooking first – then watch the videos with the time you have left.

You’ll always make time for what’s most important to you, so remind yourself why meal planning is so important.

Meal planning is the foundation for healthy eating, and without that organization, you’ll continue to struggle to eat healthy consistently.

Ingredient #2 – Simplicity

Keep your meals simple.

Not forever, but when you’re short on time.  Even better: make meals you don’t need a recipe for.

Here are some of my favorite quick & easy meals…

Breakfast or Lunch – I love a Green Smoothie & Oatmeal.  Or… a Quinoa bowl with store bought hummus, avocado, and lettuce.

For Dinner – I really enjoy a few brown rice wraps with hummus, vegetables, and mustard.  Or… sweet potato fries & salad.

If you get totally stuck on what to make that’s quick and easy, be sure to grab our free Meal Idea Generator. This will help you come up with ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner when you’re stuck – and it will help guarantee you’re getting in a wide variety of fruits + vegetables.

Simplicity is especially important for you to pay attention to if you plan meals but don’t end up executing them.  Maybe you’re too tired, or have no energy – you’re most likely making meals that are too complicated.

Eating Healthy, in it’s most basic terms, means eating food that makes you feel good in your body. Usually, this can be achieved by eating more fresh fruits, vegetables and drinking more water. It’s not hard to carry a water bottle with you at all times, or add more veggies to the meals you’re already making. You can do this.

Save the fancy stuff for when you have more time… like a day off or on the weekend ;)

Now, if you’re not that confident in the kitchen, you’ll want to stick with a recipe at first. When using a new recipe, be sure to look at the ingredients, and read it all the way through.

Keep an open mind, because sometimes recipes don’t take as long as you think they will. A 30-minute recipe can go rather quickly, especially when you have your kitchen in order (more on this in a minute).

And, sometimes recipes take longer than you think. If that happens often, be sure you note which recipes are quicker than others, and add the quick recipes to your weekly rotation.

Ingredient #3 – Batch Batch Batch

I’m talking about batch cooking and batch prepping. If you’ve never heard this term before, it means instead of making one of something, make multiples. This way you only have to do it once.

Some of our favorite things to batch cook are:

  • Quinoa
  • Brown Rice
  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Hummus
  • Salad Dressings

We also like to batch salads, so instead of making 1-2 salads, we’ll make 4 at once.

If you’ve already got the vegetables and cutting board out, you might as well get the most out of it.

This is really handy if you take your lunch with you to work. We love making grain bowls or big salads (you’ll see lots of these in the lunch section of our Meal Idea Generator) and storing the dressings separately.

These are great because they taste excellent cold, with no need to use the microwave, or worry about not having a stove top.

Another perk of batch cooking is… fewer dishes.

I mean, I’m sure you can get behind that?! I know I can.

Juicier Tip

I’m not sure if you’re a juicer, but I’m a BIG juicer. One thing that helped me in the past, when I was working multiple jobs, was washing and cutting up my produce the night before.  That way, in the morning I could just run the produce through the juicer and give the machine a quick rinse.  You can also juice in the evening if you have a masticating juicer (juice will last for 72 hours), and have more time in the evenings.

Ingredient #4 – Kitchen Clean Up

What’s the #1 thing to organize for saving time? Your Kitchen!

If your kitchen is a mess, it’s going to be hard to work in that space, it’s going to be hard to find things, and you’re more likely to waste time moving things around and searching for items you thought you had, but don’t.

Here’s what I recommend:

1.) Keep basic ingredients stocked

As you begin cooking, you’ll begin to notice what spices you prefer, and what ingredients you need on a regular basis. By always having them on hand, nothing can stop you.  In total honesty, Peter is the king of this – I’m lucky to have him.  

However, if I didn’t, I’d be more on top of this because I’ve seen what a difference it makes.

2.) Always keep dishes clean

As soon as you’re finished with dinner, tackle the dishes. Or, if you don’t wash your dishes every night, at least keep them rinsed.

There’s nothing worse than reaching for that pan from last night that still has food caked on it. If nothing else, soak it! You’ll be so glad you did.

3.) Clear those counters

The layout of your kitchen can make a huge difference in the speed at which you prepare food. Most people cover their counters with decorations, gadgets, and equipment.

Do yourself a favor and clear them off as much as possible.

At a minimum, have 1 area dedicated to chopping vegetables. You’ll need to be able to squeeze in a full-sized cutting board, bowls, fresh ingredients, and even an area for waste. Salads require the most counter space to prepare due to the nature of the ingredient sizes.

By clearing off your counters, you’ll be able to have multiple stations too, thus allowing you to multitask on different projects. Once you make these changes, you will achieve high efficiency in the kitchen.

Feeling like you have no space in your kitchen?

Try This: only have gadgets and things on your counter that you regularly use.

If you don’t use it…get rid of it. #ClutterBeGone ;)

Ingredient #5 – Know your schedule

Before the week starts, take a look at your calendar, or simply think about what’s on the agenda for your week. Once you do that,  figure out when you’re going to be working late, or when you’ll be driving during lunch.

That way, you can plan your meals accordingly.

If you’re working late: you’ll need to make your dinner ahead of time – bring it with you, or have something pretty much made for when you get home. 

If you’re going to be driving during lunch: maybe you bring a smoothie with you that you can drink on the road, and eat some granola & yogurt once you arrive at your destination.

I know sometimes things come up, but I’m sure there are obligations you know about each week that you can plan ahead for.

Peter and I make a point to look at our schedules each Sunday for the week ahead, that way we can forecast any challenges or late nights we might have to prepare for.

Now that you’ve gone through the 5 Ingredients, think about which areas you need to work on…

I’m sure at least 1-2 jumped out at you.

You can plan super healthy meals even when you’re crazy busy, use this list to pinpoint areas that need improvement, and get to work on them this week.  

You can do this! 

Now, if you’re ready to actually get to the meal planning part and overcome some other objects like – finding recipes you like, or saving money on healthy ingredients, then you’ll want to grab our 4-part program, The Consistent Meal Planner’s Kit, which will walk you through exactly what you need to do to get healthy meals on the table each day… even when you’re short on time ;)

What’s the best way to find healthy meal ideas when you’re short on time?

Download Our Free Meal Idea Generator

This Simple Resource Includes:

  • A Printable for Your Kitchen – contains ideas and cuisines for every meal. (no need to use any extra energy on figuring out what you’re going to make)
  • The Top 4 Things to Consider – to guarantee you’re getting in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • An Energy Reminder – helps you pick meals that will give you energy, not take it!

Get this free Meal Idea Generator so you have a list of healthy choices to help you out when you’re tired and need it the most.

2 Comments

  • Lauren V.

    Reply Reply March 22, 2017

    Great article! Our refrigerator AND extra freezer both broke down and l lost a lot of food. This has inspired me to address my replacement food shopping with renewed vigor!

    • Sarah

      Reply Reply March 22, 2017

      Hey Lauren!

      I’m so glad this inspired you – mission accomplished!

      Let me know if I can help with anything else.

      And, I’m sorry about your Fridge and Freezer :(

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