Meal planning is great as it helps you to get organised, minimise food wastage and save money on your grocery shopping. It’s also perfect for when you’re trying to lose weight or eat healthier as it removes the guesswork and ensures you have healthy meals throughout the week. If you visit a nutritionist or a personal trainer or buy a workout plan online, they will often give you a meal plan or give you guidelines to create your own. What you eat can either magnify or scupper your results when trying to lose weight or build muscle, so it is vital you have a plan.
To ensure you can put the tips in this post into practice, I have created a free printable meal planner that also acts as a workout planner. Get your free meal and workout planner here.
I strongly believe in the phrase ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail‘. I always eat better when I have a plan as it helps me to avoid temptation. I plan and prepare my meals on a Sunday for the week ahead. When I have healthy meals and snacks in the fridge I am less likely to reach for quick, not-so-healthy meals like jam on toast (my weakness) or ready meals or takeaways etc. Creating a meal plan can seem like a daunting task at first but now that I’ve been doing it a while it has become much easier and faster. I feel like I’ve got meal planning down to a tee so today I’m sharing my tips with you so that you can become ace meal planners too.
1. Decide which meals you need to plan for
This will depend on who you live with/cook for and your schedule for the week. If you live with your parents and they cook dinner for you, then you may only need to plan for your breakfast, lunch and snacks. If you live alone then you may need to plan for all of your meals. If you live with a partner or housemate then you need to take into account any meals you share. Your schedule for the week will greatly affect your meal plan tool; are you eating out any days this week? Do you have any lunch meetings? How many hours will you be out of the house for?
2. Assess your budget
Whilst many of us would love to eat steak and asparagus every single day, our budgets may not stretch to it. It’s very important for me to consider my budget when I’m meal planning so that my meal plan is realistic. It’s all well and good writing our dream meal plan but if it’s not affordable then it just won’t work. Meat is on the pricier side so I limit the different types of meat that I buy each week. For example, one week I’ll have chicken, salmon and tuna, the next week I’ll have chicken, beef and cod. Instead of having them all in the same week I spread them out to spread the cost. I also check special offers online before writing my meal plan. If lean minced beef is on offer then I’ll buy that instead of turkey mince that week. Utilising leftovers and meals that can be made from the same ingredients can make a huge difference to your budget too. I’ll buy salad ingredients that can be used for multiple salads and just change the meat/topping to keep things interesting.
3. Minimise food wastage
Check your food cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what you already have in your kitchen. Still, have a whole bag of spinach in the fridge? Cod fillets in your freezer? Make sure you include them in your meal plan so that they don’t go to waste. When writing your meal plans include leftovers and repeat meals. If you fancy porridge for breakfast, then it’s no good to buy a whole box of oats and only have porridge once. I like to pick two breakfasts and repeat them each week. If you cook for yourself then repeat Monday’s dinner on Wednesday or freeze the extra portions for the next week. If you’re having chicken for dinner then use the leftovers in your lunch the next day and make a salad.
4. Think about the season
For most of us, what we eat in Winter is different to what we eat in Summer. Different foods will be in season and what we fancy when it’s cold isn’t the same as when it’s hot. In Winter I like to eat stews and heartier dishes such as chilli con carne whereas in Summer I prefer salads and soups. Make sure you take into account the season and which type of meals you’ll fancy when writing your meal plan.
5. Gather recipes together
Once you’ve worked out how to make your meal plan work for you, it’s time to collect recipes! I love trawling food blogs, Instagram, magazines and Pinterest for inspiration. I save recipes on Pinterest in my Healthy Recipes board and refer back to it when putting together my meal plan. Having a collection of recipes to hand makes it easier to meal plan in the weeks when you’re lacking inspiration or feeling bored about cooking the same meals over and over.
6. Don’t try too many new things at once
As fun as it is collecting new recipes, it can be overwhelming if you try to do too much at once. Stick to introducing 1-2 new recipes a week and mix them in with your old favourites. This will ensure you don’t have to spend too long in the kitchen, learn too many new cooking techniques or need to buy too many new ingredients that will only be used once then left to be forgotten about in your kitchen cupboard. If your meal plan becomes too difficult to put into practice then you won’t stick to it.
7. Fill in your meal planner
Now the fun begins, now you’re ready to actually write your meal plan! Because I love you guys and because I love to share, I’m giving you the meal planner that I use! It also has space to track your workouts too. Get your free meal planner here, print it off then sit down and fill it in, utilising the tips in this post.
Once you’ve got your meal plan together, write a grocery shopping list for all the ingredients you’ll need to create your meal plan. I like to meal prep on a Sunday for the week ahead using my meal plan then I don’t have to worry for the rest of the week. Let me know if you’d like me to do a post on how I meal prep in the comments below.