Fed up of thinking about what to cook?
Wasting time scouring supermarket shelves for inspiration?
Do you wish your meals were a bit healthier?
Why not try meal planning.
Learn how to create a healthy weekly meal plan to improve your health, avoid food waste and save precious time and money. Find out ten meal planning tips to make your life easier and your meals more nutritious.
What is meal planning?
Meal planning is working out what you are going to eat for the week. Instead of worrying about what you should have for lunch and dinner, you know exactly what you’re cooking ahead of time. A meal plan allows you to get organised in the kitchen with advanced shopping and prepping.
Benefits of meal planning
- Reduces stress and saves time as there are no last-minute trips to the shops for ingredients or fretting over what to cook. When you’re more organised, you have more time to relax and focus on other things.
- Helps save money. When you have your meals planned and organised for the week, it stops you eating out at lunchtime or ordering a takeaway for dinner. When you go shopping with an organised list, you know what you need to buy so you’re less likely to fill your trolley with unnecessary items.
- Decreases food waste as you only buy food items you need, therefore preventing food from going unused or left to rot in the fridge. When you list out your ingredients and work out the quantities, you become more conscious about what you’re buying.
- Allows you to control what you’re eating. Instead of impulse buying and grabbing something convenient at the shops, meal planning enables you to choose healthier food options in advance. It also prevents you shopping when hungry and potentially buying unhealthy snacks and junk food.
- Broadens your palate and inspires you to get creative with your food choices and recipes, instead of eating the same thing day in, day out.
10 meal planning tips for healthy eating
- Get inspired by seeking out delicious new recipes to cook. Trawl your favourite cookbooks, look on Pinterest and Instagram or ask friends for ideas. Avoid recipes that are overly complicated or require too many ingredients as this can slow down food prepping and cooking time. Try one of these tasty plant-based recipes.
- Ensure half of your plate includes vegetables so you can load up on essential nutrients. Also include some quality protein (legumes, beans, fish, lean meat) and good fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil).
- Choose a shopping day (when you’re least likely to be tired or stressed) and write up a shopping list. Before writing down ingredients, check what you’ve already got in the pantry and fridge so you don’t buy unnecessary items.
- Buy seasonal and local produce as it’s fresher and tastes better, not having sat in cold storage for months on end. Fruit and vegetables are ripe and ready to eat as they haven’t been picked too early and travelled thousands of miles to get to your plate.
- Opt for organic food where you can as it’s more nutritious and it doesn’t contain toxic pesticides or chemical residue. Organic food also keeps you satiated due to its higher nutritional content. Conventional produce loses up 90% of its nutrients due to irradiation. Learn more about the benefits of organic food.
- Declutter and organise your pantry so it only includes items you will be using on a regular basis. An overly cluttered pantry can lead to overbuying at the shops, especially when you can’t find what you need. Organise your pantry according to food type (legumes, grains, nuts/seeds, spices) and label jars so you can easily identify food items.
- Have themed food nights such as Meat-free Monday, Stir-fry Friday or Salad Saturday. Theme nights not only make meal planning easier, they are fun and get the rest of the family involved too. Everyone knows what meals to expect on certain nights of the week, giving them something to look forward to.
- Set aside time to batch cook your meals. It’s best to diarise it so you don’t overschedule yourself and run out of time to get organised for the week ahead. Sundays are generally a good day for batch-cooking so you start the week fresh.
- Make room in the freezer for batch-cooked meals as there is no point in stocking up on meals if there is nowhere to store them.
- Use up leftovers, whether that be excess vegetables, fruit, pulses or grains. You can repurpose leftovers to make a brand-new meal the next day. You could whip up a soup or stew, freeze excess fruit to make a smoothie or blitz your vegetables to make a sauce for your pasta or quinoa.
Streamlining meal times
Creating a weekly meal plan is the perfect way to streamline your cooking schedule and cut down on food waste. Knowing what you’re going to cook ahead of time can eliminate mealtime stress and anxiety. It also enables you plan healthier options, instead of impulsively buying junk or convenience food. Load up your dishes with nutritious vegetables and buy organic, seasonal produce where possible to optimise your nutrient intake.