How to Simplify Meals: 5 Tips!

Do you ever stress about what’s for dinner?

Do you feel like by the time you’re hungry, it’s too much effort and will take too long to throw a meal together?

Or maybe you open the fridge like 5x a day and think “I have nothing to eat” even though it’s pretty full?

Feeding ourselves is totally one of those #adulting things that can get mundane, overwhelming, or we just want it simplified. 

The struggle is real when it comes to creating a simple meal.

These five tips help me save time in the kitchen, get enough healthy nutrients in, and still keep moving in my busy day!

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Keep It #Basic

Yes, variety is the spice of life… and, it can take a lot of ingredients, brain power, and organization to diversify every single meal of every single day. Instead, I like to stick to 1-2 options for each meal of the day for a week or so.

Here’s an example: I’ve been LOVING my breakfast salad lately – 1 cup baby kale (veggie), a drizzle of olive oil (healthy fat) and lemon juice, a handful of cut up cherry tomatoes (more veggies), 1 piece of toast (carb) and a fried egg (protein) on top, sometimes I’ll add sausage, bacon (protein/fat), and/or avocado (fat) too! You could also make this vegetarian and use 1/2 cup cooked lentils (protein/carb) on top in place of the egg or meat.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely go through phases of what I’m in the mood to eat. I can usually have a similar breakfast for a full week, and not get tired of it. Then the next week, I switch it up!

If you like more variety, include another option to alternate in – maybe oatmeal (healthy carb) with sliced berries (fruit) a handful of nuts (healthy fat), 1 tbs of collagen (protein) stirred in, topped with some almond milk. 

If you’re wondering “what do you mean by basic?” Think of keeping the foundation of your meal whole foods, while including a carb, a protein, and a source of healthy fat.

I’ve added notes above (in parentheses) to indicate which element of each meal falls under each of these 3 macronutrient categories. It’s minimal ingredients, but still super satisfying, tasty, fairly quick, and SIMPLE.

2. Make Your Meals Easy to Grab-and-Go!

This tip does include the option to do a little prep work when you have time. But by taking 30-45min on a Sunday or Monday to make overnight oats for the next 3 days is #worthit to save time later, lower stress, and keep your mornings moving.

Examples of great grab-and-go meals and snacks:

  • DIY Protein Snack Box: A combo of raw veggies, hummus, cheese, fruit, crackers or veggie chips.
  • Peanut Butter Chocolate Energy Bites
  • Overnight Oats
  • Smoothies: Only downside here is they are usually just good for one day, but you can freeze them!
  • Pre-cut veggies and/or fruit portioned out in small containers with a serving-size each!
  • Pre-portioned baggies of a handful of crackers, pretzels or veggie chips

Another grab-and-go option for full meals is to simply make a little extra and have some glass containers ready when you’re done cooking.

After you make your plate, portion out another serving of everything in your meal-prep container so you’ll have it for lunch or dinner the next day. I like this option as a less aggressive alternative to full on meal prepping ( aka – taking one day to cook, portion and package various meals for 5 days a week) which can be a daunting goal and might not fit everyone’s lifestyle.

3. When Short on Time, Find Healthy Convenience

Ok, so either the time, ingredients, and/or motivation are not in the house today. And… it’s meal time. Here are some options to keep it simple, make it quick, but also maintain healthy choices.

Examples: Take 20min to run to the store, grab a pre-packaged salad kit (boxed or bagged) and mix all the ingredients right there in the container. All you need is a fork!

Use the #basic formula of whole foods protein, fat, carbs to piece together a meal at the store. I’ll go to whole foods and grab a banana (fruit), a single-serve almond butter packet (healthy fat), a few cups of mixed greens (veggie) from the salad bar with vinagrete, and maybe a piece of roasted chicken (protein) from the hot bar.

You could also order food to-go. Have a few go-to healthier option fast-food restaurants in your back pocket.

I love Sweetgreen (if you have one in your city, yummy healthy bowls), Chipotle, Panera Bread salads and soups, Mad Greens (salad chain), Lemonade, Mod Market, and if I’m working from a coffee shop I’ll find one that has healthy food options!

Lastly, I like to keep a few frozen meals in the house as a healthy convenience option. If I don’t have time to order or go get something, these save me from skipping meals (which ultimately dips my productivity, mood, energy, and ugh) and allow me to have a made-for-me, ready-in-minutes option. Look for organic options in your frozen meals section. Try to find something without too much sauce or dairy.

4. Minimize Decision Fatigue with Meal Delivery

This one is pretty straight forward. I know it seems like this might not be the most budget-friendly option. But in all honesty, my husband and I get 3 meals a week delivered; it comes out to $10 a meal per person, which is WAY less than we would spend if we ate out 3 nights a week.

It takes away our frustrating question “what’s for dinner?” on busy nights when it’s already 7p and we’re otherwise completely unprepared and unmotivated to put an original meal together. We just take out the recipe card and follow the instructions. And, it’s perfectly portioned with the amount of ingredients we need. So while there aren’t usually leftovers, it eliminates food waste (because we don’t always eat our leftovers #guilty)

Here are 3 options to look into for meal delivery:

  1. Trifecta – All you do is heat ’em up. You don’t need to cook or spend a lot of time. They have a lot of customization and even nutrition coaching resources. Good for very active or athletic people. $$$
  2. Hello Fresh. This is what we get. It does take about 40+ minutes to make each meal. But I like it that way cuz then I feel fancy for actually “making dinner” lol and it’s super fresh, not frozen, and they have good variety. Use my link to get $100 off if you decide to sign up! $$
  3. Territory Foods – Fresh meals pre-made and delivered. You just refrigerate until ready to eat, then heat. They deliver your meals twice weekly so it’s always fresh. Downside, they are not in every city, so you’ll need to check your zip code to see if it’s available. $$

5. Do Mini Meal Planning

Ok, so you know that I like smaller approaches to weekly meal prepping. Along these lines, it’s helpful to put just a little forethought into your meals for the week, or even the day!

Here are some ways to do mini meal planning:

  • Take 15 minutes over the weekend to clean out old food, take inventory of staples you have and what staples you need. Staples would be any ingredient you wouldn’t usually go a full week without (eggs, sweet potatoes, rice, butter, seasonings, olive oil)
  • Find inspiration for new recipes on IG, TikTok or Pinterest. Pick 1-2 to try this week.
  • Always go to the store with a list. It will change your life.
  • Take a few minutes at night or first thing in the morning to think about your day, how much time you’ll have, and what each of your 3 meals could look like based on what you have. Envisioning ahead of time what you will make and about how much time you’ll need will help you stick to the plan!

I hope this was helpful! Let me know which number is your fave!! Leave a comment below.

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