Super Easy Meal Planning for People who Hate to Meal Plan

Cheap, easy, and no recipe needed!

As I wrote about last week, I’m currently on a quest to lose about 75lbs of baby weight, after giving birth to three kids in the past three years. My first week using myfitnesspal for calorie counting went so-so. There is nothing wrong with the program, but all three kids happened to be sick last week, and it was hard to remember (or feel like) tracking my meals. And, if you don’t track, it doesn’t work.

So, I decided that I needed to refine my plan a little. I need a way to stay on track even when life gets crazy and unpredictable (which is pretty much every day with 3 boys under 4). And that means, I need to try something I’ve been dreading trying ever since I heard of it – meal planning.

Meal planning (well, planning in general) doesn’t come naturally to me. (You’re talking to someone that once traveled around 8 countries in western Europe for 6 weeks without planning more than a day in advance).

But I know that to succeed on this diet, I’m going to have to suck it up because life is just too chaotic right now for me to stay on track in the moment. It’s just too easy to eat the half a cookie a kid leaves behind or succumb to just ordering pizza when I’m too busy to think.

So, I did some self-reflection and figured out why I hate meal-planning so much. And I came up with two key answers: 1. I don’t really like (or have time) to cook. So, the idea of sifting through a bunch of recipes to find some that are healthy and easy just fills me with dread. I want food I can grab in the moment or at least whip up in under 10 minutes while my kids are mesmerized by Cocomelon. And 2. I just don’t know what I’m going to want to eat 3 days from now. Locking myself in just makes me feel resentful.

Knowing these things about myself, I was able to come up with a super easy meal plan that works for me and my busy schedule. Here’s what I did:

Make a List of EASY Meals and Snacks

First, I made a list of easy meals and snacks that I actually eat already on a regular basis. Forget the fancy recipes, forget adding new items to my rotation – I need BASIC right now. How basic? Well, 3 samples from my snack list are: apple, hard-boiled egg, handful of almond. 3 samples from my meal list are: pb&j sandwich, burrito (microwaveable!), and bagel with butter. Yeah, I’m boring. But, I’m also self-aware.

Look Up the Calorie Content of Each Meal and Snack

Next, I wrote the calorie content next to each of my snacks and meals; anything up to 200 calories counts as a “snack.” Anything over that counts as a “meal.” Note, I didn’t include any meals over 400 calories. My calorie goal for the day is 1500, so I was specifically looking for meals and snacks that I knew I could eat without much thought but without going over (or much over) that number.

Pick Two Easy Labels for Tracking

Finally, I labeled the meals with an “A” and the snacks with a “B.” Each day, I can eat three things from the A column and two things from the B column. It doesn’t matter which ones; I can eat whatever I feel like so long as I stick to the pre-set list of meals (and I can add new ones to the list whenever I want!) Even if I ate the highest calorie things from each column (400 for A; 200 for B) that would still keep me at 1600 calories or under every day. Without even thinking about it!

Initially, I jotted my As and Bs down on a piece of paper to cross off each day, but this turned out to be so easy that I don’t even need the paper. But, in case anyone is interested, here is what that looked like;

That’s It!

This plan has been a dream come true! And it is SO flexible. If, one day, I just REALLY want 2 slices of pizza (about 250 calories each for the kind I eat), I simply count that as an A and B to cover that 500 calories and move on with my life.

Next up is refining my meal and snack list to make sure I’ve got all of my nutritional bases covered each day. I already included a lot of fruits, veggies, and healthy proteins on my list, so it would be hard to, say, accidentally eat only carbs one day. But, knowing me, I could find a way.

What do you all think? Could something like this work for you?

Don’t do THIS on the first day of your diet!

This describes the beginning of a lot of my grand plans.

Yesterday was Day One of my “diet” (I prefer “lifestyle change,” but that feels a little ambitious right now; I’d settle for just figuring out how not to binge on Cheetos multiple times per week), and I already screwed up. I think I’ll start collecting my screw-ups in a “what NOT to do to lose weight” list – maybe I’ll spare someone else my mistakes.

Anyway, here’s how I messed up yesterday. I was all set to go with myfitnesspal, but I hate – HATE – logging my food. It’s easy, it works, and yet still…I rebel. Yesterday’s rebellion was to log meals a few hours after I ate, basically when I had a free moment.

Here’s why this doesn’t work. According to myfitnesspal, I need to eat 1250 calories a day to lose 1.5lbs per week right now (I’m hoping to increase this later, but I was honest about my activity level, which is minimal right now – I basically work, write, and play with my kids. Need to add exercise, obviously, but one day at a time).

Anyway, by the time I got around to logging at 2pm or so, I had already eaten breakfast, a morning snack, and lunch. And, apparently, I didn’t do so hot, as I was already up to 950 calories! The idea of only eating 300 calories for the rest of the day sounded horrible, so I just gave up entirely for the day. And we all know what happens when we “give up” and decide to “start again tomorrow.” I’ll spare you the gory details, but, let’s just say that cupcakes were involved.

So, starting over today, with two new tips:

1. Log your meals RIGHT AWAY; that way you don’t find out halfway through the day that your early meals were more calorie-laden than you thought.

2. If you do mess up one meal, don’t write off the whole day as lost. I probably could have gone over by just a few hundred calories if I’d just gotten myself on track the minute I realized I was off. Instead, I not only gave up – I went into, “Oh no, a diet is starting tomorrow!” mode all over again – and probably went over by 1,000 calories instead.

Onward…