Nutrition

February 3, 2021

5 minute meal plan template and guide

By:
Coach Jason

Meal planning that saves time, frustration, and your waistline in as little as 5 minutes. Whether you're eating takeout, cooking at home, or anything in between, this 5 minute meal plan template will work for you.

Imagine this, it's 6pm, you're hungry, tired, and hazy after what feels like an eternity of a day. Your brain power has been whittled down to nothing and you're staring into a fridge of random ingredients trying to determine what the hell you're going to make for dinner. Not only do you have to feed yourself but you might also be joined by some less than flexible eaters. You want to make the "right" choice but you just don't have the willpower, creativity or care right now.

Know the feeling?

Avoiding these moments is why you need a meal plan.

In this article we'll cover:

Meal planning is not meal prepping.

There are few other things you can do that have more return on investment than having a meal planning strategy.

First understand that meal planning is not meal prepping.

When I say meal plan most people envision prepared meals perfectly lined up in the fridge with labels. 

meal prep in the fridge

Looks great, but not what I'm talking about.

You may have seen something like this before. Not to throw shade but when you saw this you may have also thought something like: 

"lol, they gotta be single"

"how in the hell?..."

or just

" there's no f*cking way that's happening..."

That's completely ok, and that's not what I'm asking you to do.

Meal planning is the strategy that guides your food choices for the week. It's like an agenda for your meals.

So even if you didn't want to cook you could still have a meal plan and also use my meal plan template.

Using a meal plan helps determine:

  • If and what you're going to cook on what days
  • Your grocery list and other food pickups
  • If any glaring gaps exist in your nutrition plan for the week 

This greatly reduces or eliminates those days where you're stumbling into the evening exhausted asking "what do you want to make for dinner?"  or "what should I have today?". Then later finding yourself too many slices deep in a stuffed crust pizza smothered in sauce, cheese and self loathing the day after you resolved it was time to get your sh*t together. 

Eating Pizza crying in shame and ecstasy covered in sauce

Yes, I see you.

It should also make your groceries simpler, save you time making food, and make it more likely you'll make choices that move you in the direction you want to go.

Here's how you do it:

5 minute meal plan template

Things that make this work

  • You need to cook or have access to cooked meals (more on this in Time Saving Strategies)
  • Choose whether food is cooked daily or in bulk 1-2 days per week (Sunday and Wednesday, or other days of your choice)
  • Groceries ideally need to be done in bulk weekly
  • You need to be cool with leftovers and a little repetition to save the most time.
  • Tupperware that’s accessible and isn’t a pain in the ass (I suggest glassware because it’s easier to clean)

Dinner serves as the linchpin of this plan. I always focus on planning around dinner first because it can serve as two meals or more and you have the most time in the evening but the least decision making power.

Dinner is also most often a family meal so it requires more parties to agree so it's important that it be discussed ahead of time.

Once you have this planned I encourage you to take a few minutes to build out a grocery list from these meals as needed.

Trying something new comes with a learning curve that is different for everyone but this simple structure shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes to complete especially once you get over the first week or two.

Download the template

Click and download the template I've created to guide you through the process, print it or save it. Then choose a day where you'll complete the following steps. If you're reading this now though I would also do this now, then repeat weekly.

Instructions

  1. 1
    Plan 6 Dinners for the week. Enter them into the tracker included the food you're making, along with any meals you're not going to make like takeout, outings, family gatherings.
  2. 2
    Plan 1-2 items for breakfast. Simpler is better here, this about the time you have available.
  3. 3
    Identify and fix any gaps. Look for any days you won't have leftovers or don't have a plan. 
Pro tips:
  • Portion your leftovers as you clean up. This add little to no time since you're already cleaning up and saves you time later.
  • Always plan for at least 1-2 extra portions when you cook. This ensures lunch for the following day backup meal planned.
  • Try freezer friendly meals. Cooking stews, casseroles and chili makes for great leftovers and when in doubt you can freeze the extra.

Things I haven’t talked about but are important

What you eat still matters, if you want to know more about things like what foods you should look to prioritize for weight-loss and performance I cover in depth in What's actually important for fat loss? and Macros for weight loss and performance 101 .

Simply creating some structure and awareness to what you're eating though often times solves many challenges at once so I would focus on this first if it has your interest and then see what happens from there.

Most of the time when we're motivated we try to take on the world and it's the reason why you may struggle sticking to a new routine and making it a habit.

That's why when I coach something like this it's about winning at 1 thing first, then seeing what needs to change from there.

Time Saving Strategies

You can save yourself time, add a little variety, and still make good choices. 

Not sure what to cook or just want some variety? Try a meal kit service like Cookit, Hellofresh, or Goodfood for example. These are excellent ways to save both shopping time and freshen up your recipe rotation when it gets stale. Use the service that makes sense for you. If you decide to use Cookit use the code JASONI027 for 50% off your first order which is usually better than their coupon. We went with Cookit because of the local ingredients and interesting selection of cooked and premade meals. 

Won't have time to cook a meal? Check out a local fresh meal preparation service. For example here in Ottawa we have Red Apron, and Meal Prep Ottawa for example which serve ready made meals which are easy to heat, nutritious, and have great ingredients. Also some upscale grocery stores like Farmboy and Whole Foods have fantastic meal counters where you can mix and match proteins and sides which make it much easier to tailor based on your needs. You could purchase a few of these if you know hard times are ahead. 


I hope this helps give you some options, clarity and a plan of action. Remember it's about progress, not perfection.

A large part of coaching is determining the right strategies for the right person at the right time, if you want to want to waste less time trying to figure out what you should be doing, and more time making progress we should chat, claim your free 30 minute strategy call.

About the author

Coach Jason

Jason Ingham is a personal trainer, nutrition coach, powerlifter, sci-fi geek, multi-time former fat kid, lover of Bay (Bailey), food, and lifting heavy things. When he's not in the gym you'll probably find him buried in a book, crushin' a sandwich, or exploring the cities restaurants.

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