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Meal Planning 101

Jan 31, 2021 | The Healthy Way Newsletter

Meal planning is an aptly named technique that simplifies and systematizes the refuelling of your metaphorical tank. This article will cover the basics.

Walking into a grocery store and letting your heart lead you to dinner is a lot of fun (for those who like cooking, anyway). But grocery shopping daily isn’t feasible when 5pm rolls around, the last coffee’s magic has worn off, and all the fresh produce is gone. That’s why we should save our culinary adventures for a spontaneous trip to the farmer’s market on a Sunday and plan our other meals before we’re too hungry to choose health over convenience.

Planning seven breakfasts, lunches, and dinners can feel daunting when done with zero foresight, but it doesn’t have to be. Just remember that you’re not looking to create an elaborate 12-course meal to challenge Gordon Ramsay – but an efficient, effective, and tasty way to feed yourself or the family.

Before thinking about the actual meals you’ll be preparing, ask yourself these macro-sized questions to guide your menu:

What meals actually need planning?

Sometimes, meal planning requires no plan at all. If you’re fasting intermittently, then you can immediately cut one meal from your rotation, or swap a full meal for a light snack. And if breakfast is poached, scrambled, or hard-boiled eggs and fresh veggies, then you’ve already planned your first course!

How much do you really eat?

After a typical meal is your body telling you to eat more or yelling, “please stop!”? Is the fridge stuffed with leftover leftovers, or perpetually barren? Are you a chronic over or under-eater? Studies have found that portion size is correlated to decisions made long before you actually sit down to eat. So by deciding what you’ll be eating and when, you save yourself the hassle of leaving food to spoil, or having nothing to eat but condiments.

Consider food allergies and favourites

Mentioning this may be redundant, but take your dietary restrictions and preferences into consideration before hunting for recipes. Going gluten-free? Vegan or vegetarian? Cutting out red meat or dairy? Managing your blood sugar? Any decisions you make regarding intake should appear in your meal plans and your shopping list.

Figuring out your menu

An easy – and fun – first step is to theme every night. Meatless Monday, taco Tuesday, French Fry-day, saucy Sunday. And no, they don’t need to rhyme. If you have kids or a playful spouse, they can add to the fun while doing the heavy lifting for you! Once you have your themes set, you’ll know precisely what style of ingredients you’ll need for every night. And feel free to leave a day unplanned to satiate your creative side with a trip to your local butcher or fishmonger.

Once a broad theme has been set for the days, search for the recipes. To the right are three sources for any theme or cuisine on your calendar:

With your themes in mind and your recipes in hand, it’s time to raid the store. You’ll want two things when you walk in. First, this handy chart of bunker-level-shelf-life items to keep stored in your pantry and freezer to avoid unexpected trips to the grocers and spontaneous nights of ordering-in or dining-out. Second, your list of ingredients for your nightly meals.

For the pantry:

  • Pastas, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, rolled oats, couscous, dried lentils

  • Canned: beans, tuna, chicken broth, lentils, beans

  • Canned or jarred tomato sauce

  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • Balsamic and/or apple cider vinegar

  • Grapeseed or coconut oil for cooking

  • Jarred green or Kalamata olives

  • Jarred capers

  • Hoisin sauce

  • Oyster or fish sauce

  • Wecestershire

  • Barbecue sauce

  • Ketchup and mustard

  • Various nuts and dried fruit: walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pine nuts, pecans, apricots, prunes, cherries, cranberries, dates, raisins, figs

For the fridge:

  • Cheddar, gouda, or another cheese you fancy

  • A good quality parmesan

  • Fresh garlic, onion, and ginger

  • Mayonnaise

  • Unsalted butter

  • Large ORGANIC eggs

  • Anchovies or anchovy paste

  • Greek yogurt

  • Lemons and limes

For the freezer:

  • Sausages and/or hamburger meat of any animal

  • Frozen fish

  • Assorted frozen fruits

  • Assorted frozen vegetables


  • Spices: allspice, chili powder or flakes, ground cumin, curry powder, turmeric, nutmeg, paprika, cayenne pepper, ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks

  • Dried herbs: bay leaves, dill, thyme, oregano, basil, tarragon, sage, parsely

  • Honey

  • Maple syrup

  • Brown sugar

  • Almond and/or hazelnut butter

  • A bar of dark chocolate

  • Various jams

  • Teas and coffees

  • Black peppercorn

  • Kosher salt and coarse sea salt

  • Unsweetened cocoa powder

  • Bittersweet and/or semi-sweet chocolate

If you’d like to simplify meals even further, cook all your protein at once. On a Sunday night, bake or grill all your chicken (the most versatile of the proteins) for the week and freeze them. It’s essential that the chicken is frozen – not refrigerated – as mould may start to grow as early as two days after cooking. Then defrost and season to match the night’s theme as the week goes on. Now you’ll have a substantial base for any cuisine that may come to mind. Think burritos, pasta, chicken burgers, stir-fry, or a simple chicken and potatoes.

Despite the emphasis on managing the volume of leftovers, they’re an unavoidable consequence of casual cooking. When you’ve got full meals in containers, it’s easy: reheat, maybe add some extra sauce or seasoning if they’ve food has become too dry or bland. But what about when you’ve got crisper drawers brimming with mismatched ingredients? There’s a resource for that too. Supercook lets you enter the ingredients you have, and they’ll scour the internet for recipes that match your list.

If all else fails…

And meal planning and prepping just isn’t your thing, there are backups. Look for either a meal delivery service that does everything for you except eat, or check out a premade meal plan and grocery list that only needs shopping and cooking! Our favourites include the worldly selection from Whole Foods and Three Healthy Weeks from the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Yours in good health,
Dr. Elena Krasnov, N.D.

About Me

I'm Dr. Elena Krasnov, N.D and I've been healing people for decades with my holistic and comprehensive approach to health.

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