Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Meal Planning for One: Where To Start

What I love about planning meals for myself is how selfish I can be about it. After all, I'm the only one I need to please. I don't have to worry about anyone else's likes or dislikes, intolerances or allergies, eating schedules, or diet plans. I'm free to choose what I eat and when I eat. It's a nice freedom to have, although it's also a freedom that's easy to abuse. While I do focus on the foods I love, I'm also mindful of the foods I don't jump up and down about but also need to have.

When planning meals for yourself, begin with these three simple pre-planning steps. Taking these steps will let you create a meal plan that incorporates the foods you love, provides the right nutritional balance for you, and allows you to manage your cooking and shopping with efficiency.

Make a List of the Foods You Love
Knowing that you can eat the foods you love is a big motivator for building a successful meal plan. Years ago, my mother and I decided to go on a diet that was supposed to take off ten pounds in three weeks. We lasted only a week: We couldn't bear the idea of another fourteen days of eating nothing but spinach, grapefruit, black coffee, and hard boiled eggs. Take some quiet time to write down your favorite foods and then make sure they get included in your meal planning so that you never have to abandon a meal plan only because you can't stand the food in it.

Know Your Daily Nutritional Requirements and Special Needs
I was lucky to be raised in a family where healthy, nutritious meals were the norm and not the exception. The meals my family cooked gave me a solid foundation for continuing to eat sensibly as I went out on my own, eventually married and raised a child, and then returned to cooking for one again. Although today I still keep to my family's basic nutritional practices, I have had to make changes to accommodate late-developing food intolerances. The point is, I'm the one responsible for knowing which foods to avoid and which to eat in what amounts.

If you are not sure what your daily nutritional requirements should be, start learning how to determine them with the easy-to-understand Mayo Clinic nutrition guidelines. These guidelines are based on the Department of Agriculture's 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, but so much easier to understand!

Plan a Shopping Strategy
The most well-thought-out meal plan can come to nothing without a shopping strategy that's easy to implement. I don't know about you, but if I don't commit to and follow a shopping plan, then I'm more likely to pull into a drive-in window for a quick fix at the end of a work day than to go home and pull together a simple, pre-planned, healthy supper. Here are some of the factors I consider when creating my shopping strategy.

  • I limit my food shopping to two trips a week. I would limit it to one a week if only I could buy the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables I need without their spoiling at the end of the seven-day period. 
  • I pick a time of day to shop in order to avoid crowds. I want to be in and out of the store as quickly as I can, because my patience is limited when it comes to waiting in line or dealing with busy parking lots.
  • I never food shop without a list, and I never food shop when I'm hungry. Either practice will contribute to impulse-buying which in turn will undermine meal planning success.

These pre-planning steps will help you think through some of the basic aspects of successful meal planning for one before you actually create a meal plan that works for you.

Photo source: Sally's Trove

1 comment:

  1. Good tips. I try to folloe those shopping strategies.