Meal planning- How to get it right!
Do you find yourself overwhelmed with the “what should I have for lunch?” question? Or perhaps, slightly underwhelmed?
Knowing what to eat everyday can be a challenge. We want to be excited by our food but how can we make sure we’re eating a balanced and nutritious diet? If, like most people, you don’t have the cash to buy a fancy salad at your local ready to eat cafe, how do you create the same delicious meals on a budget?
Finding more ways to introduce routine in your everyday life alleviates stress and that feeling of being overwhelmed.
The world of meal planning can be daunting. If done wrong, it could lead to wasted time and more disastrously, wasted food. So, it seems, potentially more hassle than it’s worth, right?
But actually, once you know how to meal plan efficiently, the behaviour can have multiple positive effects on your physical and mental wellbeing.
Here to help you overcome your meal planning fears is Joanna Lowy:
"By day I am a motion graphic animator, but at all other times you can find me in the kitchen, or doing a sweaty workout! My love of food started at a young age, but the older I got, the more I feared food and what I was eating. I only really started to feel great and see the results I was after when I fuelled my body correctly. So, I took it upon myself to find ways to eat all the foods I used to love in balance and in moderation."
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring. If it is boring it is not sustainable. You need to enjoy what you are eating. There is no need to compromise on flavour.
Take things one week at a time
One of the best ways to manage your meals and food intake is to take things one week at a time. This is beneficial for a number of reasons. Planning for the next 7 days ahead is much easier than trying to bulk buy your food shops. If you try to make a meal plan for an extended amount of time, then you might fall into the trap of overbuying food or buying things that aren’t so good for you (the longer I spend in the supermarket the more likely I am to put naughty treats in my basket!)
Another plus is that it prevents food waste. Life can be up and down and plans come and go. If I plan two weeks of meals and then end up eating out for two of those nights then I will have overbought food and will subsequently have to waste food (which I hate doing!). Usually, I’m pretty certain of my plans one week ahead.
Overall, taking it one week at a time allows you to plan the snacks and meals for the week whilst remaining focussed. It’s also much easier to track the foods you’re eating and allows for adjustment where needed.
Think of meals that are easy to make in bulk
This will be a game changer for you.
One pot meals or dishes that you can prepare in bulk will save you time, money and… washing up! This will be a game changer for you.
My favourite meals to prepare in bulk are…
Chilli Con Carne
This can be made with beef mince, or alternatively you could do a mixed bean chilli.
Similarly to chilli, you can’t go wrong with this staple meal. Can easily be made vegetarian/vegan with meat-free mince, or even made using lentils.
Indian Chickpea Curry
And you can make homemade naans too for ultimate dunking. The dough can be frozen so you can have a handy stash. Just defrost the night before using.
Chicken Red Pepper and Olive Cacciatore
This Italian one pot wonder freezes brilliantly. It is packed with protein, full of flavour, but also very healthy too.
Homemade Bean Burgers
Burgers are always great to make in bulk. Once cooked, allow to cool and then wrap in tin foil to freeze. You can then defrost and just warm them through when you fancy a burger night.
You can have these particular meals a few times over one week or if you have space in the freezer you can freeze them to eat later, saving you time later down the line.
Keep it exciting
I tend to have the same thing two days in a row and then mix it up for the following two days
If you think meal planning is all about preparing the same meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday of the week then you’re sadly mistaken. If anything, meal planning gives you the chance to make your food exciting. You can sift through all those recipe books you got for Christmas and try something you’ve never made before! Instead of making rash decisions in the supermarket without a plan in place, you’ll always rely upon the meals you have in your head- which will probably be the same 5 meals you’ve memorised!
If I eat the same thing everyday for the entire week then I am guaranteed to get bored and go off track! It then becomes hard to stay motivated, especially if you’re new to meal planning. I tend to have the same thing two days in a row and then mix it up for the following two days.
Include foods and meals that you LOVE to eat
I love to find healthier ways to make my favourite meals
In my opinion, this is the key to meal planning. When it comes to deciding what to eat, it’s so important to include foods and meals that you know you love eating. This is another great way to keep it exciting. If you really want to be successful at meal planning, it’s essential that you actually enjoy it! You can ensure this by including some of your favourite flavours or recipes. Perhaps you prepare your favourite meal for a Friday as a reward for your hard work in the week.
I love to find healthier ways to make my favourite meals. For example, using lower calorie ingredients to make calorie heavy recipes, like Mac and Cheese for example! Lighter butter, reduced fat cheese, skimmed milk. You could even use a lentil based pasta. You will find you can still eat those meals you love and see results. I cannot live without pancakes, so switching maple syrup for zero calorie syrup, and substituting some of the sugar and flour for additional protein powder makes them a regular breakfast option. Eating well and healthily does not mean bland, boring or flavourless food and if you can remember that then you’re on the right path to success!