Do you want to eat well but don’t know where to start or are too busy to think about it?
You're not alone! We all need to eat, and most of us want to prepare healthy meals which are tasty and satisfying but it isn't always that simple. Everyone has to like it and you need to have all the ingredients on hand and so on. There is a lot to think about to pull this off successfully every day.
The answer? Start with a meal plan.
When our family plans out our meals for the week, we always eat much better than when we don’t. It is also enjoyable not having to think about and plan what we are going to eat each day. All that work has been done!
Why meal plan?
- Saves time, you can shop all at once.
- To free up your mind so you can think about other things.
- Prevent food waste.
- You will probably eat much better.
Where to start
Generally I write my meal plan on a piece of paper, which floats around here and there so I decided to get a bit more organised and created a template which I now stick on the fridge! The next step...
- Make a list of your families favourite dishes and the recipes if need be. Keep them together, somewhere you can access them easily.
- Flick through your recipe books and try something new at least once a week if you can.
- Once a week, maybe on the weekend, make your menu plan for the week. Think about what other things you have on that week, which nights you'll want to whip up something quickly or just defrost something from the freezer, and plan accordingly.
- Check out your fridge, freezer, cupboards and garden and try to include the ingredients you already have on hand for some meals. Stir fries and soups are great for this!
- Put a meal down for each dinner and mix it up as much as you can, e.g. chicken & rice, beef stew & potato, vegetarian lasagne, fish & salad and so on.
- Think about lunches too, especially if you have school age children. Leftovers can be great for lunch in a small thermos or you could put left-over meat on a sandwich or wrap with a simple relish or mayonnaise. Check out these simple lunch ideas .
- Breakfast. You may not need to meal plan for this if you have a staple you like. But you may like to add something special, like eggs or pancakes, once a week if you have time. Find some healthy breakfast ideas here.
- Think about snacks too. We all love snacks and food for on the go! Nuts and dried fruits are great for this, as are the occasional treat like a homemade muffin or goodness ball.
- Look at what ingredients you need and write out a shopping list. Try to get food as fresh as possible. The growers markets are great for this. Try to menu plan around your shopping day, e.g. buy the fish fresh the day you shop and save the chicken until later in the week as it can be frozen if need be.
- Double the batch of something one night, for a friend or for the freezer.
Also, remember to look at what you have on the menu for the next day in case you need to prepare something in advance for example soaking beans or defrosting meat. Keep an emergency stash of tinned beans in your cupboard just in case you forget!
My top meal planning tips...
- Do the meal plan properly.
- Keep it simple, don't try too many new things in any one week unless you have loads of free time.
- Make it tasty and nutritious.
- Just use real food as ingredients.
- Always have a meal in the freezer to fall back on if it all goes pear shaped!
Do you plan your meals each week? Do you have some tips to share? What is your secret to eating well?