Life is busy. I know this, you know this. Between lectures, tutorials, work, time with friends, family and maybe a little bit of relaxing, there aren’t many hours left in the day. It’s no wonder you don’t really want to be thinking about what to eat, cooking or cleaning up afterwards by the time you’ve got through everything else. Far easier to dial up some delivered food on your phone.
But with a little planning and structure, meal planning can actually save you time, effort and money. It might not look as easy as ordering takeaways (again) but the benefits really do add up.
You’ve just got to know where to start to make the process easy and worthwhile. If cooking individual meals seems overwhelming, the idea of doing all 35 weekly meals at once can seem even more so! Trust me though, it doesn’t have to be.
That’s why I’ve written this post to help beginners get started with meal planning.
Meal Planning For Beginners
So let’s start with exactly what meal planning is. It’s just good sense really. It’s taking some time to plan out what you’ll eat for the week, what groceries you need to have on hand and when you have time to cook. This can help to reduce stress, as you’re not trying to decide what to cook once you’re already hungry and you’ll have already purchased what you need to. There’s nothing worse than finding out you’re missing one crucial ingredient! It’ll also save you money as you’re less likely to buy takeaway foods. This can be a simple step to help increase weight loss. You’ll also use up the ingredients you have at home, rather than letting all those fresh veggies that looked good at the grocery store wilt in the back of your fridge.
Meal Planning Tips For Beginners
Check Your Schedule
Planning meals means taking some time to look at your week and seeing what you’ve got on. Maybe you have evening classes so you know you need some leftovers ready to go when you get home. Maybe you are going to be on campus all day so you need a lunch that will travel well. Maybe you’re not much of a morning person so you know that you need a breakfast you can grab on your way out the door. Look over your calendar to work out when you can cook at home and what type of meals you need to prepare.
Once you’ve gone over your schedule, you’ll see some areas where you need to have a plan of what to eat. Let’s say it’s breakfast. You can then start thinking about what meals would work in with your lifestyle. One of my favorite ideas is prepping overnight oats the evening before.. Find recipes that work for you, that you actually like the taste of and begin there. You don’t need to tackle your whole week all in one go. Start with what looks easiest and step by step build up from there.
Write A Grocery List
Once you’ve done your weekly meal planning, you’ll know exactly what you need to buy from the store. Writing out your shopping list, and sticking to it will save you time and money. You won’t buy ingredients you don’t need. It’s always tempting to buy some extras that look interesting while you’re at the store, but will you actually use them before they go off? You’ll be saving time by making sure you’ve got what you need. No more last minute trips to the grocery store in the middle of a busy week.
Pro tip: Use a grocery pick-up or delivery service so that you’re not tempted to add a few extras to your trolley while roaming the aisles. Plan to get yourself some delicious food that you love (you can call them treats if you need to!) so that you don’t feel deprived. You can build a meal plan around making sure you’re nourished physically as well as emotionally.
Bulk And Freeze
Meal prepping a large batch of one meal and then eating it all week isn’t my idea of fun. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for cooking large, healthy meals so that I know I’ve got food ready to go when I’m busy. But I’d much rather turn a couple of portions into freezer meals for later down the track. Then I know that some of those nights when I’m working late, there’s a dinner ready to go. I’ll have my freezer stacked up with a variety of meals so that I can pick something I’m in the mood for and get variety in what vegetables I’m eating.
Invest In A Crock Pot
A slow cooker or crock pot can save you a lot of time. By meal prepping early in the day, you can come home to a delicious home-cooked meal ready for you. It might be an investment up front, but can help you save money in the long run as you reduce your reliance on convenience foods and takeaways. Don’t feel like you have to get one if it’s out of your budget though! There are plenty of other things you can do to make your life easier without breaking the bank.
Get Better Recipes
Finding recipes that you like will make you more likely to cook them. There’s no point in planning to cook healthy food that you don’t like. Food is meant to be enjoyed, shared and feel good. If you plan to cook food you’re not interested in you’re also more likely to make excuses and not end up cooking it. Or if it’s cooked, not eat it. That’s just going to lead to food waste. So keep trying out recipes until you find some that you like.
Beginning a new habit is more likely to be successful if you partner up with a friend or roommate. When it starts to get a bit more challenging, you have a question or you need a hand, you’ve got someone you can turn to. Or you can split out the work. If you both batch cook a large meal and put it into meal prep containers, you can swap a couple so that you can have a few different meals this week. Far more interesting than eating the same thing all week and better for you too! You’ll get some variety in your diet and get to try new foods you don’t normally cook.
Meal Planning Template
Don’t let complicated meal planners discourage you. I’m here to help. You can get a week free meal plan, designed by me here. It’s nutritionally balanced to help give you more energy, the right amount of macro-nutrients and be easy to follow. You can use this as a template to design your future weeks or sign up for more from me if you love it. I can help support you in choosing healthy, nutritious meals each week that can lead to weight loss.