Meal Planning For Begginers

Meal Planning for Begginers

Meal Planning. I actually got started into it when after a Spanish wedding my bank account was not a really happy place (flights back and forth, new dress, new shoes, hairdressers, the gift… you know the drill). 

So, I started what in my house my mothers has always called ‘War Economy’. In my case, an after taking out the obvious ‘going out’ and ‘shopping’, my biggest spent was on food. On Meal Deals from the Coop, to be more specific. And Iced Fingers with our mid morning coffee. And Strawberry Pencils. And Chocolate. And last minute sandwiches because I did not know what I was going to have for dinner and was way to tired to even star thinking about cooking.

Write down what you usually eat. We don´t eat that many different thing during the week: 

  • Tuna/salmon/chicken salad (I still did meat back then) 

  • Frozen veggies with rice

  • Lentil stew

  • Chickpeas with vegetables stew

  • Spaghetti carbonara

  • Baked salmon with oven chips

  • Ham & Cheese Sandwich

Ermm, not the most healthy of menus. I have changed my eating habits quite a lot since then. As I had banana and cinnamon porridge and green tea for breakfast, homage sweet potato soup with chickpeas for lunch today, and plan on having a hummus, tomato, pepper and spinach wrap for dinner. And the sweet potato soup was made last weekend, and the wrap is part of my scheduled options for healthy dinners. But that, and how I managed to get back into a healthy weight after years of overeating, it´s a story for another day. 

What I find really useful it´s to have the ingredient of my ‘to go’ recipes close by, so when I am meal planning I can quickly check what I need for each one. Come on, I am even giving you my planner layouts for free. Because I am nice like that. And I know that starting something new it´s not easy and you need all the help you can get 😉

Just enter your name and email, hit the download button, and this lovely planner would be yours!

Back to Meal Planning

  1. Now that you got the list with you meals, add things like coffee, tea, milk, spices, oil, salt, sugar, honey, toast, yogurt, fruit… What you would call pantry staples. Now, write down what you would be eating next week. Something I found really useful was to write down the ingredients list of all my ‘to go’ meals, and I ended adding new pages to my planner for when I need inspiration to plan next week.

  1. Don´t try to plan every meal! Well, some people are really organized and plan (and batch cook, more on that later) for the whole week. But I believe that the best meal planning strategy it´s the one that works for each person. In my case, I plan for 4 meals (because I know that there is going to be a day in my work week that meal time it´s going to be taken over by meetings or site visits. Or take out with my co-workers, like today, when some Monday Pick up Sushi was sorely needed!!) and make provisions to have salad/wraps/soup for dinner (again, depends of how late I left work or if I have gone out for a run). And weekends are a different ball. That´s when I try out new dishes, or cook things that have to be eaten while hot (no microwave at the office!). Or I meet some friend to eat out. Bottom line, this is what works for me, a combination of planning + flexibility

This is where my layout for meal planning comes extra handy! In the beginning I just wrote things down on spare sheets on my planner, or incorporate them into the main calendar… but they kept getting lost. This way, not only do I know exactly where to go to check, but also helps me keep a balanced diet (not having pasta based dishes more than one week in a row, or remembering to get fish at least 3 times a week)

  1. After this, write down the shopping list! Seriously, having a list and sticking to it would save you loads of time… and money! I usually have it on my phone. Before I used the sticky notes app on the phone, but since I found the Easy Meal App, I am a gonner. not only let’s you do the shopping lis but also gives you healthy meal ideas! Also, frozen veggies and protein are your friends! Good to have some frozen salmon and spinach for when, for whatever reason, you have nothing fresh to eat

  1. Do not, I repeat, do not go grocery shopping hungry. And empty stomach makes very difficult to stick to the list!

  1. Now that you know what you are going to eat everyday (more or less, see coworkers tempting me with Sushi), let´s get some of the preparation and coking done during the weekend to free up week time!. That, and if you have already cooked it it would be more difficult to skip a meal (because it´s already done) For example, for things like my version of TOry Moroccan Couscous I do the veggies on Sunday, and then the Couscous fresh everyday. And throw in fresh spinach every other day. For the Mediterranean Chickpea Salad, I just get all the ingredient to work and mix them there at lunchtime

Summing things up

  • Take stock of what you already have

  • Plan your meals (start small and  consider what you already have in the fridge before it dies!)

  • Write down a shopping list

  • Go shopping on a full stomach

  • Prep/cook whatever you can during the weekend

And if you are looking for some tasty and healthy (not meaty) inspiration, check out my Pinterest board!

 

 

I am not going to say that it’s easier than it looks, because creating new habits never is. But it does get easier, and it’s really worth the effort. Your wallet and your health will thank you for trying!

 

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