If you have followed this blog for a while, you will know that I've been on an experiential journey these last several years to find they keys to living a healthy, happy, wonderful life. It is a journey that has seen me lose faith in the online "wellness gurus", go back to university to qualify as a nutritionist, dive deep into positive psychology, become a health coach and trial everything (and I mean EVERYTHING!!) I have learned on myself and my long-suffering husband.
And I'm writing today about one of my all-time favourite, simple tools:
The Meal Planner.
A Meal Planner is simply a table or document which you use to decide in advance what foods and meals you are going to make and eat. It sounds so stupidly simple but trust me, when you use it right a Meal Planner is a game-changer! So now I'm shouting from the rooftops - you HAVE TO try Meal Planning!
And before I continue, I need to make sure you know that Meal Planning is NOT the same thing as Meal Prepping! Meal Prepping is where a person blocks out anything from a few hours to a whole day to prepare their whole week's worth of meals, which they then refrigerate or freeze. Whilst there is nothing to stop you preparing meals in advance, there is no need to do so. The purpose of a Meal Planner is to get you to PLAN in advance what you will be making and eating.
I have to admit, when I first tried it out I didn't think much was going to come of the experiment. I started meal planning soon after my home was renovated. The renovation dragged on for five long months, and during that time my husband and I didn't have a decent kitchen to cook in. We were really time-poor and relied on lots of home delivered and convenience meals - and the effects soon showed up on our waistlines! So I started meal planning to see if it could help to get us out of the home delivery habit and back into healthy home cooking. And it did! But the benefits didn't stop there, which is why I'm now a Meal Planner convert, and want you to try it too!
Here are all the benefits we experienced from simply devoting a little bit of time each week to planning what we were going to eat at home or take to work:
1. We are eating healthier
We completely kicked the home delivery and convenience meal habit and our diets became so much healthier! Because we had planned what we were going to eat, and had shopped accordingly, we came home at the end of the day knowing exactly what we were going to cook - and we had all of the ingredients we needed. My meal planning experiments made me realise that so many of us fall into unhealthy habits of ordering food in or grabbing takeaway on the way home because we don't have a plan, we don't know what we can cook and what ingredients we will have.
2. We are saving so much money on food
These savings have come from two sources: Just a little bit of planning has almost completely eliminated our former habit of ordering in or grabbing ready-made food on the way home. This has saved us a fortune! The secod source of savings comes from the fact that when we go food shopping now, we are only buying ingredients we know we will be using during the week for the meals in our Meal Planner. So these days, even when we shop for the highest quality ingredients, our home cooking habit is so much cheaper than frequent takeaways.
3. We are no longer wasting food
I used to lose track of what was in my fridge, pantry and freezer, and all too often, through poor planning, I would be throwing away fruit and veggies that had grown fuzzy, expired pantry staples and delicious meals that had been left in the freezer way too long. And it made me feel terrible. Since using my Meal Planners our food waste has reduced exponentially. Because I start my meal planning process with a quick scan of what we already have in the kitchen, I no longer lose track of what I have available and I can make sure I use any foods that are nearing their expiry.
This is how I use my weekly Meal Planner:
1. I take a quick look in my fridge, pantry and freezer to see what ingredients I have, and what meals I have previously made and frozen. These meals and ingredients will feature in my Meal Planner meals!
2. I look at my calendar for the forthcoming week to see what my husband and I will be doing; when we will be home late, going out for lunch, or needing to bring our own lunch and snacks. There is no point planning a home cooked meal if we won't be home to make it!
3. My husband and I decide what we would like to eat, and start filling in our meal plan. I include breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. At this point there is usually a good measure of interjection from, and haggling with, the husband! I don't like to spend ages in the kitchen making dinner in the evening, so I choose dinners that are fast and simple to make, and I recommend you do this too - choose fast, healthy meals that you know you will look forward to eating. If you need inspiration for fast, healthy, delicious recipes, check out the Recipes section of this website!
4. I work out what I will need to buy, then I shop for the ingredients I will need.
5. Now all the brainwork is done, I just follow my Meal Planner and make the meals I have planned for the week! No more confusion about what is in the fridge or pantry, no more decision fatigue followed by a call for home delivery. Just a quick 20 minutes in the kitchen and dinner is ready (and if we spend an extra few minutes, lunch for the next day will be packed too!)
We don't always follow our meal planner to the letter, as our schedules can change - we may stay out when we had planned to be home for example. But most of the time, we follow our Meal Planner, it works for us, and it really has made a difference.
GET YOUR FREE MEAL PLANNER PRINTABLE!
So now I want you to try Meal Planning for yourself!!
I have put the Meal Planner I have been using myself in the Members Section of this website! It's were I keep all of the helpful FREE resources for our amazing newsletter subscribers. If you would like to receive a copy (and get access to all of my other helpful free resources) just CLICK HERE to join my weekly email list!
I have also put a Shopping List in the Members Section so you can jot down your shopping list while you are doing your meal planning!