Welcome to our brand-new blog series all about meal planning and why YOU need it.
Meal planning can sound rather daunting and possibly boring, too. But it doesn’t have to be, if you do it right. This blog post will talk you through all you need to know about meal planning; what it is, how to get started, what you’ll need and, of course, the many benefits that go along with it.
Let’s start with the basics. Most of you might be asking, “what exactly is meal planning?”
It really is as simple as it sounds. Plan what it is you’re going to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week ahead. Meal planning is designed to save you time and money, as well as help you make healthier choices.
Ultimately, meal planning comes down to three simple steps: choosing your meals or recipes, shopping for the ingredients and then the meal prep itself.
Tip: We advise doing your weekly food shop over the weekend, so you can prepare and get ready for a brand-new and exciting week on the Monday.
A planner. This will help keep you organised and to remember what you’re having to eat each day. Pop it on the fridge or somewhere close by.
A notebook. If you’re cooking something often, then it might be a good idea to keep your favourite recipes together in one place, so you always know which ingredients you need to keep handy. This will also save you time googling recipes each time you cook!
Tupperware and food containers. You will need lots of these to take food with you while you’re on the go and at work to keep leftovers fresh in the fridge or to freeze anything you batch cook.
Scales. Portion control is a huge part of meal planning, if you want to do it correctly. We’d always recommend weighing out your food, especially for things, such as cereal, granola and pasta, to ensure your portion sizes remain under control.
Think about the foods and meals you love most but see if there is a way to make them healthier. Or decide if your diet is missing anything – do you need to eat more vegetables? More fruit? Or maybe you want to eat less meat? Whatever it is, look to incorporate recipes that include the right nutritional value for you and your body’s needs.
Get yourself a weekly planner and leave it in the kitchen where it is visible and plan the meals you want for each day. This will save you time but also make you feel much more organised and stress-free when it comes to dinner time.
Once you’ve chosen the meals you’d like to have, write down the ingredients and check you have them all. If not, add them to your shopping list.
Some ingredients, such as dried herbs and spices or even pasta, will last a while, so they won’t need replacing for quite some time, meaning you won’t have to worry about buying these every time you do your weekly shop. Each time you use the last of something, make sure to add it to your shopping list ready for the following week.
Spend an hour on a Sunday evening washing and chopping your veg and put them in the fridge to keep fresh until your ready to use them throughout the week. You could even cook chicken ahead of time.
Tip: We’d recommend choosing meals and recipes that will leave you with enough leftovers for lunches at work or even dinners for the following week.
Save money. It’s a no brainer that meal planning will save you money, as you’ll only be buying the ingredients for your pre-planned meals. This will stop you guessing what you’re going to eat and never actually getting around to using them up. If the meals you make leave you with enough for leftovers, this will also save you money, as you’ll need to buy even less – win, win!
Less waste. Similarly, if you’re only buying what you know you will need for each recipe for the week, then there will be much less waste. Everything will get used up, nothing will go out of date and anything that is leftover can be frozen for another day, rather than going to waste and ending up in the bin.
Save time. Admittedly, it sounds like meal planning won’t save you time at first. But, once you have finalised your weekly menu, planned ahead and spent some time prepping the food on a Sunday evening, you will have so much more spare time in the week after a long day at work. You won’t have to go to the shops for last minute meals or spend time each evening deciding what to eat or what needs using up first. You can come straight in and get to it! You can finally get your weekday evenings back and spend a little more time in the gym or with family. For the colder months, make soup in large batches and freeze them ready for the week ahead or prepare your meals in the slow cooker to save even more time.
Portion control. Hopefully, most of what you cook will be prepared and measured out ready for you to shove straight in the oven. Researching recommended serving sizes beforehand will ensure that you’re only eating what you need, rather than overindulging.
Making healthier choices. By creating a meal plan, you will become much more aware of what you’re eating, especially of any bad stuff. You might see a lot of high-carb foods regularly popping up or you might notice there’s a lack of veg or protein in your dishes. This will help you make changes to your plan and aid you in making healthier, more nutritious choices and decisions.
More variety. While it may sound repetitive, you can follow a different plan each week, if you wanted to change things up a bit. Or even have two or three weeks’ worth of recipes and alternate them to add even more variety and excitement to your mealtimes. You will also experience more variety as the seasons change, with fresh salads in the summer and hearty, homemade soups in the winter.
So, what are you waiting for? Choose your favourite nutritious recipes and create your very first meal plan. You won’t regret it and we guarantee you will soon see fantastic results.
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