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9 Principles of Minimalist Meal Planning

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Shopping for and preparing food, creating atmosphere, and the cleaning up after can be uncomplicated and easily accomplished with a few tips.

What is minimalist meal planning? It involves applying the philosophy of “less is more” to the preparation and enjoyment of food.

As with many areas of life, when you strip cooking and eating down to the bare essentials, you realize how little you actually need to feel satisfied. By clearing away the clutter—the unnecessary parts—you make space in your life to enjoy this act of creation or to reinvest your time elsewhere. Minimalism doesn’t dictate how your life should look or that you adhere to a specific set of values. It simply assists you in achieving your goals by focusing on what matters most.

When it comes to meal planning, there are no universal rules. Each family’s dietary needs, habits, and preferences will shape what this looks like. However, having a starting point can be helpful.

Simplifying Meals

I’ve laid out nine principles to guide you toward understanding how minimalism can help you achieve more of what you truly want. In our home, we’ve made huge strides in simplifying the art of feeding our family and doing it well. I hope some of these ideas resonate with you.

1. Fewer Ingredients

Think about some of your favorite dishes, and you might be surprised by how few ingredients are truly essential. For example, I love pizza, which is fundamentally just dough, cheese, and sauce. In perfecting the combination of these three ingredients, you have what is arguably the world’s most popular and delicious dish.

2. Less Variety, More Flexibility

When I began paring down my wardrobe, I realized the importance of having versatile items that could be combined with other pieces. The same holds true for the ingredients in your refrigerator and cupboard. Look for utility players that can be repurposed in many different dishes, making your shopping easier and reducing waste.

3. Less Impulsive, More Intentional

Minimalist meal planning starts with a plan. You can’t expect to walk into a grocery store and intuitively know the ingredients you’ll need. By taking a little time upfront to plan your meals, you’ll save time each day and likely spend less on impulse purchases.

4. Less Waste, More Leftovers

Minimalism is about having just enough to satisfy your needs without excess. Instead of letting food go to waste, consider how you can plan your meal schedule to enjoy leftovers on another day. If you don’t plan for how you’ll use the leftovers, there’s a good chance they will get pushed to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten until they spoil and have to be thrown away.

5. Less Rushed, More Mindful

Too often, people try to multitask while eating, whether it’s watching TV, looking at their phones, or working at their desks. The minimalist approach to food suggests making space for eating to be just that—eating. Invite others to do the same and take the time to savor each bite in a relaxed atmosphere.

6. Less Processed, More Nutritious

Food used to be just food. But if you walk into a grocery store today, it’s filled with all sorts of food products. Sure, all foods need to be cooked and prepared to maximize pleasure but don’t assume that large corporations have your best interest in mind when it comes to your health. Often, what is simple is simply good for you.

7. Fewer Dishes, More Family Time

As a family of six, cleaning up after dinner can sometimes take as long as eating the meal itself. We push back against this by trying to use as few dishes as possible. We reuse a water bottle throughout the day, try to use as few pots and pans as possible when cooking (i.e., sheet pan dinners, and one-pot meals), and only lay out the plates and utensils the meal requires. These little things add up.

8. Less Complexity, More Enjoyment

It’s easy to get distracted from what you are really trying to do when it comes to meal planning. You don’t need to impress others with what you eat. Beyond the basic principles of nutrition, there are no standards you must meet. Cut away all the unnecessary stuff and focus your meal preparation on foods you enjoy eating, meals that are easy to prepare, and people you enjoy sharing them with.

9. Less Perfection, More Appreciation

Perfectionism, whether it’s trying to create the perfect meal plan or the perfect dish, is the opposite of the minimalist philosophy, which encourages you to ask, “Is this good enough? Am I content? What is really necessary?” In a world full of real trade-offs, striving for perfection is not a sustainable strategy. It’s much better to direct that energy toward appreciating what you can do and what you do have and making the best of your current situation.

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