Title: Meal Planning Ideas
I am a big meal planner and I have been ever since I started my journey to being healthier nearly 6 years ago. Meal planning can really help you to keep on track with being healthy and also help you to save money with your food shopping. It might seem like a lot of effort and in the beginning it does take a little more effort, but once you get in to a routine and you get some meals you know your whole family enjoys, the planning gets much easier and it pays off. Here are my tips for meal planning
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Why is meal planning a good thing? Well, for me, when I first started eating healthier, it helped me to know what meals I had planned for the week. If I didn't have anything planned, then when I was hungry I would just go to the shop and buy whatever I wanted, which usually wasn't the healthiest option. But having my meals planned meant that it didn't get to that stage as I knew exactly what I was having.
I have posted quite often about my weekly clean eating food prep and how I used most of that to make my meals with throughout the week. I get a lot of questions about how do I make sure that all that prepped food gets eaten, well I plan exactly what I am going to do with it. I don't stick to my meal plan 100%, as life is not that structured and sometimes we will go out, or I just don't fancy eating what is planned, but generally we stick to it and not only does it keep us on budget, but it keeps us healthier too.
Meal planning isn't just for during the week though. Where I found meal planning most helpful was to plan my weekend meals. At the weekend, I will always have a more indulgent meal (you can see how I feel about cheat meals here) and I find that planning it out not only gives me something to look forward to, but it helps me to stay on track so I don't have a total blow-out, but still have more of a "treat" meal.
Here are some of my tips for meal planning:
- Make a meal calendar. We have a white board (the one above is from a few weeks ago - excuse the handwriting, I was in a rush) and have drawn grids on to it with the days of the week and our meals. We keep it in the kitchen so we know what we are eating for the week.
- Consider making extra portions of meals and freezing them and then adding those meals in to your plan for nights you know you are not going to have a lot of time to cook. Plan your meals around your schedule, when you know you are working late or your kids are at a friend's house.
- Spend some time, even if just 15 minutes, each week looking for new recipes. Using blogs, recipe websites, cookbooks and find something new to add to your meal plan for the week. Keeping your diet varied is one of the keys to staying on track.
- Ask your family (or whoever you are cooking for) what they would like to eat. This should help you to quickly compile a list of meals for the week that you know everyone is going to love. Say everyone gets their pick of one meal, so everyone is happy.
-Start theme nights. In our house we have Mexican Monday and burger Saturday and follow that quite strictly, as we love Mexican food and homemade burgers (that is usually our indulgence meal). You could also have "pasta Wednesday" or "meatless Monday", which makes deciding what meals to have a little easier.
- Check the weather! Might sound like an odd one, but the weather is going to determine what you feel like eating, so don't plan for soup on a hot day that is going to have you craving a salad.
- Do some prep the night before. Not got enough time to make breakfast in the morning? Make some stuff the night before, like over night oats and make your lunch the night before too, and you will be less tempted to pick up a pre-packed sandwich.
- Budget tip: Usually I will plan my meals for the week, make a shopping list based on the ingredients needed for those meals and then go shopping, but occasionally I go shopping and buy what is reduced/on offer and then make meals out of whatever I buy.
- Think about what meal you have been craving all week and put it in to your meal plan for the next week.
This week's challenge as part of my AXA PPP healthcare 52 Little Things challenge is that now the clocks have changed, use the extra hour to cross something off your to do list. People often tell me that they keep meaning to plan their meals, but they never get round to it, so this week tick it off your list!
What are your meal planning tips? Do you meal plan or wing it? Leave a comment below.
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