Since starting my JUST BEGIN journey, I have been doing lots of new recipes and experimenting with meal preparations. I quickly learnt that if you want to consistently and successfully eat healthy meals, it is much easier if you organise it and plan ahead. These are my top 10 tips to get started with meal planning!!
1. CREATE YOUR TEMPLATE
Firstly, create a weekly template with the days of the week and your snack and meal times. This can be done very easily with pen and paper, or you can produce a printable plan on the computer. You are welcome to use the design from the link below, which I created very simply on Word.
Menu – weekly planner – blank – click this link for a copy of the meal plan!
If you would like me to e-mail this meal planner to you, please enter your details below and I am happy to send you a copy:
I print several copies, so there is always one on hand, ready for when it is needed. As well as meals I have added optional ‘snack’, ‘workout’ and ‘advance prep’ columns on the planner, which will be explained later. You will need to adjust your planner to suit your own needs. Next you are ready to start deciding on recipes!!
2. RESEARCH AND DECIDE YOUR MEALS
Make a list of meals and snacks that you would like to have during the week. At first, I would do this on a separate piece of paper, using a recipe book or recipes from the internet. Make a note where to find your recipe – such as the website address, or the page number of the recipe book. Its so frustrating when you find an amazing recipe, then can’t remember where you found it!! I always plan meals that take more time to prepare on a weekend, and some easy slow cooker meals mid-week, when everything gets a bit busy and rushed! Once you have plenty of meal ideas, then you can move onto the next stage.
Do you have any meals in the freezer that that you can use, rather than cooking a whole new meal every night? Did you make a double batch of curry that you had frozen and forgotten about?! Check now!!
If so, include this as one of your meals as it will give you a quick and easy meal solution for an evening….maybe schedule that on one of your busiest days, or later in the week when motivation can start to wane.
4. LUNCH PLANNING
When deciding on lunches, I like to keep any extra potions from the previous evening meal and have these for lunch the next day, where possible. It saves so much cooking, preparation time and effort! Therefore, when you are doing your list of lunch options, include these ‘leftovers’. If I don’t have any extra potions to use, I often cook a batch of soup, which can be used for a few lunches, and any spare potions frozen for another day. Salads are another quick and easy lunch option.
5. ENTER THE DETAILS ONTO YOUR MEAL PLANNER
Once you have plenty of recipe ideas, you can now start to complete your meal planner and enter details in the relevant columns for meals and snacks. I always plan in healthy snacks as well as main meals, as I just find it really helps me get to the next meal time so much more easily. It means I am less likely to cave in any unhealthy temptations around!!
6. INCLUDE SIDE DISHES
On your meal plan make sure you include any sides you will be doing, such as peas and carrots alongside a cottage pie, for example. This helps on the next step, when you are ready to make your shopping list.
7. SHOPPING LIST
Once your chart is completed and you have added any side dishes, you should be able to see from your receipes and charts what ingredients you need for the weeks recipes. This is the perfect time to create your shopping list for the week. By now, you will know the ingredients of everything you need and when it is on your shopping list,?hopefully you won’t have to make extra shopping trips later in the week to get missing ingredients. This is also a great time to check your cupboards to see what you already have, so you don’t buy unnecessary items, which is a great money saver too!
This is one of the most important parts of the planner!! Here is where you enter anything you need to prepare for the next day or upcoming week. For example, if you need to make your lunch for Tuesday on Monday night, you would make a note on Monday’s ‘advance prep’ to ‘Prepare Tuesday’s lunch’. If you wanted to chop some vegetables on Sunday ready for the week ahead, you would make a note of this on Sunday’s advance prep, so you don’t forget. This is absolutely key in keeping organised.
In this section, you should also include any weekly preparation you need to do. For example, if you do your weekly meal planning and make your shopping list on Friday, make a note of these in advance prep. You can even include going shopping in advance prep, so this is planned in too.
Definietly include a workout section in your plan – nutrition and exercise are both so important and this will be a great reminer to plan your workouts in. If you are following a beachbody workout, you can use the schedule on your workout programme, and just write the name of your workout into your plan. See here for my previous thoughts on the benefits of home workouts! If you are running, attending the gym, or a class etc, you can write in the details and the time in this section. You may also like to make a note of any equipment you will need, such as weights or yoga mat, etc. Remember to include any rest days you are including, these are important too!!
9. PIN A COPY OF THE MEAL PLAN IN YOUR KITCHEN
You can do your plan completely on computer and keep it stored there, but I find it so much better to tape a copy on the inside of a cupboard door, so I don’t have to search for the IPad / computer / phone first to check the plan. It is always there, just ready to use. You can always take a picture of it to keep on your phone as well.
10. MAKE IT FUN!!!
Shake up your routines, try some new recipes and ingredients!! Involve family, friends and partners. Be proud that you are challenging yourself to try something new and achieving something fantastic for your health and your future. Laugh when you have a cooking disaster, share your journey with friends…post your pictures on social media. Find a love for wonderful healthy food and encourage others on the journey too. We are all in this together!!
I hope these tips have helped you. I have more to share on my facebook page JUST BEGIN and you are welcome to like my page and contact me there. Group support is also really important to help with motivation and you are welcome to join our motivation group here or follow my page on facebook for more tips and recipes. I also have a video on my page explaining further about the meal planner.
I would love to hear from you if you have any feedback, especially if this has helped you in any way. Do you use a meal planner already and has this given you some new ideas and inspiration?