Meal planning: what, why and how?
Is meal planning for you?
While meals and eating habits should be quite intuitive, todays fast paced lifestyle and the pandemic have indeed made matters a little more difficult and maybe complicated. The boudries between work space and home space and working hours and at-home hours are blurring.
Do you face the “what to make for dinner” dilemma often? Do you find yourself unprepared (no groceries and empty fridge!) to cook when you actually want to cook a meal at home? Do you feel guilty when you need to resort to “take aways” or “order in meals” much too often?Do you wish home cooked food would do wonders to your health and well being but you fail to do so most of the time?Do you make frequent trips to the grocery store?
Well, if you have ticked most of the boxes, then meal planning is what you need!
What is meal planning?
Basically thinking and deciding ahead of time as to what you are going to eat over the next week or the next few days and putting that down on paper, on an app or on a printout - any format you feel comfortable with. It is something like a to-do-list but for meals.
I believe meal planning must also take into account your likes and preferences, seasonal and local produce and avoid processed ingredients.
And planning meals doesn't necessarily have to mean cooking at home. You can even plan a meal at a favourite restaurant a week before.
Why meal planning?
Personally I believe that plans help, with everything one undertakes - a career choice, day to day activities, weekly chores, monthly jobs, paying bills, vacations, and even money and savings… so why not meals?
Most often you are aware of the busy days of your week. So you can pre-cook or partially pre-cook for those days in advance and make a little more time for work, other chores or meetings.
When meals are planned, you grocery shopping becomes easy and quick - fewer trips to the grocery and less looking around in the aisles of the store.
Once you have decided what going to be there for breakfast, lunch or dinner, you simply avoid buying groceries that you’re not going to use.
Also it is far cheaper than ordering in a meal or eating in a restaurant. Keep that for really very difficult days, emergencies or special occasions when you need an outing to chill out with friends or family.
Helps eat better
Planning is basically thinking ahead. When you make a list of to-eat things in one go, based on what your body and mind need, what you like and what is available. It simply keeps you from instant food choices, or just filling your tummy with junk food.
And that helps you eat better!
How to plan your meals
- Take a peep into the fridge: left overs, ingredients that are expiring soon, greens that go bad fast etc. Based on what you have make plans for the different meals of the day. Check the ingredients that you need and list them down
- Use a meal planning sheet in any format you wish - a sheet of paper, an app, a diary or a printout pinned up on the kitchen wall board.
- Make a shopping list for the week or the next few days.
- Do the shopping and sort out groceries immediately.
- Start prepping and getting the precooked food you will need or start the partial cooking if need be.
I have developed an interest in meal planning for two main reasons: economising and jhealthy living. It has resulted in me loving home cooked food and trust me, one can get as creative as you wish with simple and inexpensive, local and seasonal ingredients.
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