The Queen of Meal Planning always has the right stuff in the fridge and cupboards at any one time. She never has to suggest her children go forage for their supper. She always makes time for breakfast, packs a healthy lunch, and she is satisfied with her lot such that she never finds herself ravenous by 3pm and tempted to eat the office birthday doughnuts. She isn’t forced to eat her body weight in cheese as she hunts for something for dinner. Nor is she the kind of girl to eat tuna mayonnaise, half a jar of pickles and a bag of Haribos, because there is literally no other food in the house.
Want to be that person? There is always scope to brush up on your organisational skills. The secret to eating well is, in part of course, due to eating the right kinds of foods. But mostly it’s down to planning then preparing the right kind of foods.
Spontaneity only works for superheroes. It does not work if you want to eat well and healthily.
Here’s the thing about planning: you need to actually plan to plan. It’s easy to get derailed by events, situations, relationships and tasks that insert themselves into our already-busy lives.
So, if you’re committed to changing the way you eat, losing weight and, in fact, making any change in your life, my free guide is perfect for you.
Print it out. Save a tree by not printing the cover but get those pages in front of you.
The first job is to have a look-see at what you have already got. The audit. And it includes the fridge, freezer and cupboards. Make a list on different sheets of paper.
Herbs and spices, cooking oils and flours may already be at your disposal and depending on what you normally buy, you may have things like chopped tomatoes and frozen veggies that can be used to form the basis of tons of meals.
The ideal scenario is that you can use up what you have in the meals you are going to plan. It’s a good springboard if you’re short on ideas and obviously prevents stuff going to waste.
One of my favourite resources for using up left-overs is Love Food Hate Waste (https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/recipes). Although the point of this task is not specifically to save money but to save your time and sanity, there’s a lot to like about having an ‘eat the freezer night’. This isn’t Instagram. Your meals don’t need to look perfect.
Use the weekly planner to look at the week ahead.
The very first thing you need to do is to find time to sit down and plan your meals. You’ve got to plan the planning. When can you do that? Get that in the diary now.
Ideally choose a time when you know you will be free every week to plan your meals – breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Ideally, plan midweek for the following week. Put a reminder alarm on your phone. If this planning job doesn’t get done, you will have no choice but to shop on a day-to-day basis, which is much more expensive and is also against government guidelines right now.
The reason I’m being so bossy about this is that it’s very easy to have it conceptually that ‘oh yes, I will plan my meals’ but we both know that unless it is in the diary and you make it a priority something else will come up because it always does.
So when will you sit down with that list of stuff in the cupboard and what you’re going to eat? Right now, you’re looking at having to plan for three meals a day. That sandwich at Pret and the ‘given’ that the school dinner ladies having little Jimmy’s lunch sorted is not happening any time soon. What will you eat? Plan it in.
Then get the stuff on the plan over onto the shopping list.
It makes sense that you will shop your plan but many people don’t. If you want to get insanely good at planning, here’s an exercise to help:
Have it be a game that whoever goes to the supermarket can only buy what’s on the list and nothing more. No extras!
The planning and shopping discipline may take a little time to get used to, but it is worth persevering. Off-list shopping and impulse buys are the biggest enemy for anyone wanting to stick to a budget.
You might have to make peace with cooking a meal with a vital ingredient missing. But the benefit... the benefit? Get this skill right and you'll be able to send anyone to the shops and return with exactly what you need for your weekly food plan.
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