Simple Meal Planning Tips for Busy Runners
Sunday mornings are often routine for me. I enjoy a cup of coffee and the satisfaction of (hopefully) having completed my long run the day before. My typical goals for the day are relaxing and doing a few things around the house. Then, the “Sunday blues” begin to creep in. My work week is about to start all over; How will I keep up with the chaos?
Luckily, I’ve found my own way to keep the blues at bay: preparation. If I make an effort to prepare myself for a week of work, taking care of my family, and getting my runs in, it’s easier to enjoy the day. An easy way to prepare myself and my family for the week ahead is through meal planning.
Meal planning is typically my first priority when I am preparing for the week. If there’s one thing that makes everything else go smoothly, it’s having a plan for what the whole family will eat. I am a stronger runner when I’m eating nourishing meals I’ve pre-planned. I’m a better mom when I’m not rushing around to figure out what’s for dinner. And I feel less anxiety and generally happier when I’m not worrying about every meal.
Three Simple Meal Planning Tips
Here are a three simple meal planning tips for busy runners. I try to keep these things in mind as I prepare for each week.
1. Make “Easy” Meals on Weeknights
Although I enjoy trying new recipes, they often take extra time and energy, two things I don’t have. Instead, I do my best to keep meals easy. I have spent a couple of years finding recipes with shorter ingredient lists and minimal instructions. If it’s a slow cooker meal, too? Well, that’s a big bonus.
I often get sucked down the rabbit hole otherwise known as Pinterest when meal planning. It’s a great tool for finding recipes that suit any family’s needs. We’re vegetarian, and I like healthy slow cooker meals. If I search Pinterest for “easy vegetarian crockpot recipes,” I know I’ll find at least a few recipes that fit our family. I am also lucky enough to be able to go home on my lunch hour. If I have a slow cooker recipe, I use this hour as some “kid-free” time to prepare a meal. If I know I won’t have time on my lunch break, I try to prepare the meal in the pot the night before so it’s ready to cook in the morning. Remember, you have to make preparations work for you. If I choose a recipe that requires me to cook after work, I try to find one with easy steps so that my daughter can help. (She is 3 and loves to help Mom whenever she can.) When we cook together, she’s learning (measuring, scooping, pouring, using kitchen tools) and we’re spending quality time together, too.
2. Only Buy the Staples and Necessary Ingredients for Each Week
I am not a huge fan of going to the grocery store, but find it easier to bear if I stick to a list. I purchased an 8×10 picture frame from the dollar store, wrote down my “grocery staples” on the glass in wet-erase marker, and voila! An erasable and reusable grocery list.
The items on my list are ones we purchase regularly. If we run out of something in the middle of the week, I’ll mark it on the list so I remember it for my next shopping trip. Then I’ll add other ingredients to the list after I’ve planned for the week. Before my trip, I write my list. I divide everything into five sections: fresh foods/produce, shelf/canned goods, dairy, frozen, and miscellaneous. It’s easier to sort the items out when I’m sitting at home than it is to do it on-the-fly at the store.
3. Prepare Convenient Healthy Snacks
I confess I’m a snacker. I’m not a sweets fiend, but if there’s a bowl of chips and guacamole…watch out! Naturally, I go for what’s convenient. If I see a big bag of crackers in the snack cupboard, I’m going to want them. Instead, I’ve trained myself to open the fridge when I want a snack because the foods there are more likely to be fresh and healthy.
Sunday nights, I drag out our big colander and cutting board. I take all the fresh foods I purchased at the store, and I chop, wash, and/or separate them into portions. I also keep a big Tupperware of washed veggies at eye-level in the fridge. Make healthy snacks as convenient as possible, and push the less healthy ones toward the back of the cupboard. As the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.”
Your Meal Planning Tips
The above are a just few of the techniques I use to prepare myself for a week of good eating, strong running, and a happy family. What are your meal planning tips? Share in the comments below.