We all know that meal prep and planning is key to a successful Whole30. It’s really hard to wing it when you need to have protein, vegetables, and fat handy for EVERY SINGLE meal. But, the beauty of Whole30 is that there is no one right way to do it!
We checked in with four members of our Facebook group to learn how they stay focused, organized, and on track during Whole30! Check out how THEY do it!
When Christa Page does her meal prep, she says she looks at the “whole picture – all 30 days.” Here’s a little more about how she pre-plans the month ahead.
First, I start off by looking at all of my recipes. I save everything I can find in a free app called Copy Me That. I always try to make sure I note the number of servings when saving a recipe as that helps meal prep. In my app, I have everything classified under certain terms like Instant pot, Slow Cooker, etc. so that it’s easier to make sure I’m not making three slow cooker recipes in a week.
Next, I open up my template that I have in Word, and print a blank template. I go through each recipe to determine if it’s something that I think I might want during the round. (After all, I’m not going to want a soup recipe in the summertime since it’s so hot in Phoenix!) I make a list of each recipe I think I might want, and how many servings each recipe makes so that I have enough servings for the week.
After I have enough recipes listed, I start filling in the blocks in each week. I keep in mind that there will be some weeks where the unexpected happens so I might have extra, or a recipe might not make as many servings as I thought so I make sure to have emergency backups. Once my plan is final, I print each recipe so they’re easily accessible. Then I make up my grocery lists and I’m ready to go!
For some people, using a regular old pen and paper is the way to go for meal planning. Sheela Zelmar tells us a little bit more about how – and why – she keeps it simple when it comes to meal prep.
When I’m talking with friends about changing my eating habits, the topic of meal planning inevitably comes up. Those who haven’t jumped on the bandwagon are either fiercely opposed or overwhelmed with the thought of it and have no idea where to start.
I’d like to say that Whole30 is what sparked my enthusiasm for meal planning, but the truth is, I grew up seeing my parents do it, so it was natural to me. I always think to myself, how to people NOT meal plan? I have been a meal planner from a time management perspective, but now it’s so much more than that. It means taking ownership of this journey and being accountable to myself. I have tried many different formats; apps, Google docs, downloadable sheets and even beautiful journal style books created for meal planning. But in the end, I am an old-fashioned pen and paper gal.
I use a coiled lined notebook and small notepad that I buy at the Dollar Store and I use one page per week to map out my meal plan. I divide the page into seven columns; one for each day of the week. I use the small notepad to jot down my grocery list. I carve out time on Thursday evening to look at the coming weekend and week ahead. Here are the three steps I walk through when I meal plan.
What’s up doc?
The first thing I fill into my weekly columns are any events or activities that I need to keep in mind in terms of meals to prep and prepare. Is there a staff birthday this week? That means I need to have a yummy, satisfying lunch planned when my colleagues order pizza. Does my son have an early practice? If so, I’ll need a quick dinner prepped and ready to go instead of defaulting to take out. Will everyone be home for meals? There’s no sense in cooking large amounts of food when no one will be home to eat it, although leftovers are a planned necessity in my house. When I know what is happening in the week, it’s easier to prep food ahead, buy the right amounts, and save money without wasting food. When I plan ahead this way, I’m less likely to get stuck without having compliant options available.
Now that I have an idea of what my week looks like, I start to fill in what we will be eating. I usually begin with dinners, as that’s when my family is all together for a meal. I love cooking and trying new recipes, but I recognize that it requires more time and planning to venture into something new. I save new recipes for the evenings where I am home early, and no one is rushing off to activities. This allows me to take my time and enjoy the process of trying new ingredients and flavors. I fill in the rest of the dinners with old faithful dishes that my family and I enjoy. These meals might be based on what kind of meat I have in the freezer already, or what’s on sale at the grocery store this week. Don’t forget the sides! Planning out every side dish is crucial; without it, it’s hard to stick to the meal template and keep my plate full of veggies. I batch cook vegetables so I have lots of leftovers. Lately, I’ve been basing my veggie sides on what comes in my CSA box. This keeps things local, seasonal and fresh.
Keep it simple, sweetheart. Now that I know what’s happening this week and what I’d like to cook and eat, I fill in the rest of my meals. I don’t mind eating leftovers, so dinner leftovers become breakfasts and lunches later on in the week. There’s no way I could cook fresh every meal (and keep my sanity!) This also helps me plan quantities to buy at the store. If I know I need the chicken drumsticks from dinner for a breakfast and lunch later in the week, it helps me know how many to buy, and not get caught short. A few extras like prepped salad greens and hardboiled eggs, round out my plan and fill in any gaps where the leftovers weren’t as plentiful such as when my ravenous teenager chows down on extra helpings. Putting all these things together gets my week off to a great start and allows me to relax knowing I’ve got good choices in the fridge and ready to go.
The final thing I want to mention is that I write in pencil. Life happens and being a slave to a plan is not living. Sometimes we are invited to a friend’s house, or maybe we get home late after a hard day and can’t bring ourselves to cook. I erase and rewrite things out as the week unfolds. I’m learning that yes, the planning is great, but not if it gets in the way from enjoying the journey and the people you’re with. That’s what it means to be whole.
Chelsea Grinols uses the MealBoard app for meal planning, and to prep for her Whole30. Here’s what she had to say about it!
As a woman in my mid-30s, I’m used to using my phone for most things. As a mom of a 2-year-old and 4-year-old, I’m always looking for solutions to help make painful activities (AHEM, MEAL PLANNING) easier and faster. Enter MealBoard! A fellow mom friend told me about this app. Once I started using it, I never looked back.
Here’s what I love about MealBoard:
I can import recipes directly into the app, as long as the website or blog has the recipe in the format the MealBoard accepts. I haven’t found too many sites that aren’t in the correct format.
Once a recipe is imported, or directly entered if it’s from a cookbook or other source, I can add it to my meal plan and it automatically adds the ingredients to my grocery list AND categorizes them, by area of the store.
I can have a shared account with someone else, which means my husband can easily see what meal is planned for what day, or what groceries we need if he’s doing the shopping.
I can scale ingredients for batch cooking and make-ahead meals. For example, if I’m making a soup that normally makes 4 servings, but I want to double and freeze, I can change the number of servings to 8 and it automatically changes each ingredient to double the amount!
Not specific to this app, but about using my phone: I can access my meal plan or grocery list anywhere. I’ll often look at it in the morning and text my husband, who works from home, to take something out of the freezer to thaw.
I really relied on this app for my Whole30! In the weeks leading up to my start, I would browse the internet for recipes and import the ones I liked into MealBoard. You can give each recipe as many “tags” or “categories” as you want, so I gave them all the Whole30 category. Then when I was ready to meal plan, I could change my view to only look at recipes with that label. That way, I wasn’t scrolling through non-compliant recipes. I added all of the recipes I pre-made to my prep day as a meal, changed the servings depending on if I was scaling the recipes, and my grocery list was made for me! For cooking, I would switch over to my iPad, where I also have the app, so I could read the recipe better.
Debbie Spence also relied on an app for her meal planning. She uses Paprika, an app that helps you organize recipes, make meal plans, and create grocery lists.
Here’s a little more about why Debbie turns to Paprika:
I am a business owner and a single mom. I have to be extremely organized to do all that I do. When I first started Whole30 almost exactly one year ago, I struggled with the time needed to keep a running grocery list of needed foods (I don’t have time to make multiple trips to the store), save recipes that others recommended (we love to cook, so trying lots of compliant recipes was going to be a huge key to our success), and plan my meals (cooking a few days at a time was necessary, with my long hours and sometimes unpredictable schedule in real estate.)
I use my phone for everything, so I started keeping notes on my phone. I made a note for my Weekly Meal Plan. I made a note for a grocery list and added to it as needed. I made a note where I clicked and saved all the links to recipes. I literally had hundreds of notes on my phone! I thought I was doing great, because all I had to do was do a search for what I was looking g for.
Then, one day, someone in one of the Whole30 Facebook groups mentioned the Paprika app. I don’t pay for apps, and I wasn’t about to spend $5 for this app called Paprika. I decided to check it out. Wow! It had everything in it that I was basically doing manually. I quickly purchased the app and have used it since then for all of my meal planning, grocery lists, and categorized recipes (I now have over 300!)
Here’s how I use Paprika:
I copy a link to a recipe that I want to save. When I open up Paprika, it automatically detects the link.
I then categorize it.
When I’m looking for a way to use something (pork, for example) I search my saved recipes.
When someone asks for a recipe to go along with a photo that I’ve posted, I literally search, click, copy, and paste the link (all from right there in Paprika).
How do YOU meal plan? Do you have a system that works best for you?