4 Steps for Simple Meal Planning
Do you regularly find yourself in the drive through picking up dinner or wandering the aisles of the supermarket trying to decide what to cook for dinner? Are you so busy being busy you forget to eat, or when you do eat it’s often convenience foods or takeaways? Being the chief grocery shopper and cook in the house can be stressful and giving in to convenience sometimes seems much easier.
I get it, sometimes life can be a real juggle and we can struggle to get that work/life balance. When we are busy, we can let healthy eating habits slip.
Meal planning can help balance your nutrition with your busy lifestyle and is a key component of gaining a little balance when it comes to your overall health and wellbeing.
There are many benefits to meal planning. Planning your meals can help change the way you eat, change your food buying habits and reduce food waste, it can make you feel prepared while saving time and money on mid-week dashes to the supermarket and compromising on quality ingredients. A meal plan can assist you and your family to eat a nutritious, well-balanced and varied diet. It creates much less stress for shopping, and less stress at meal preparation time too.
To help make meal planning easier and less complicated, follow my 4-step guide to meal planning. If you would like some handy tools to help you get started click here to sign up to my mailing list to download my meal planning toolkit which includes a weekly and monthly meal plan template.
4 Step Guide to Meal Planning
Step 1: Plan
Firstly, it is important to choose a day of the week that suits you to sit down and meal plan. Plan meals for the week ahead so you can buy all the ingredients you need and never wonder what’s for dinner. You can plan all your meals including snacks or simply plan your dinners.
If you need some meal inspiration, use recipe books, magazines, websites and weekly supermarket mailers. Take time to read the supermarket mailers to see what is on special and don’t forget to check out your local fruit and vegetable shop for specials.
Once you have decided on your meals do a quick stocktake of the fridge, freezer and pantry so you know what ingredients you already have.
Step 2: Create
Create a list of foods you will need to buy to make the meals in your meal plan. A shopping list is great for saving money and it can also help you avoid unhealthy choices that are not on the list. A shopping list can also minimize the time you will spend at the store trying to figure out what you need.
Keep an ongoing grocery list, add items as you run out. Keep your list in your kitchen where others can add to it, on your phone using notes feature or try a free mobile app. Make grocery shopping quick and easy by organizing your list into different sections or food groups. If you are likely to forget to take your list to the supermarket, take a photo of it with your phone as soon as you have written it so if you leave it at home, you still know what you need.
Don’t forget to include foods like fruits, vegetables, and milk that might not be part of a recipe but are basics for healthy eating.
Step 3: Shop
For many this step can be the most stressful. Grocery shopping is one of those tasks we must do on a routine basis and can be a bit of a chore! Before you shop make sure you eat as shopping when hungry can lead to some rather unhealthy food choices and impulse buying!
It is a good idea to check prices of all brands as most stores offer their own brand of products that often cost less than name brands. Checking food labels is important as by doing this you can compare the nutrient content of two similar foods to decide what would be the healthier choice.
Buy in season produce. There are many benefits to eating seasonally, they are usually less expensive, fresher and are at their peak flavour. Buy only what you can use before it spoils. Canned and frozen foods are just as nutritious as fresh, and often cost less. Canned and frozen fruit and vegetables last much longer than fresh and it’s a quick way to add a variety of foods to your meal. Choose fruit in 100% fruit juice and vegetables with “low-sodium” or “no salt added” on the label.
Remember to put the reusable bags back in your car, so you don’t get caught out!
Step 4: Prep
Prepping food as soon as you get back from the supermarket can sometimes be wishful thinking, but it is something to maybe consider. Doing little things like washing lettuce, cutting up firm vegetables such as celery and carrots and storing them in a container in the fridge. Roasting extra vegetables, hard boiling eggs can save you time later in the week.
When cooking meals make more than you need so leftovers can be used the following day for lunch, incorporated into another meal or frozen.
Meal planning is an important component of healthy eating. With a meal plan written up and visible you know what you are eating so you don’t have to stress, it will save you money by only buying what you need and make sure there are no last minute dashes to get takeaways as well as ensuring variety.
As mentioned above, if you would like the tools to help you get started sign up to my mailing list to download my meal planning toolkit which includes a weekly and monthly meal plan template as well as other handy templates and tips.