For me and my weight loss journey, effective meal planning is my number one necessity for ensuring I stay on plan.
Without a robust meal plan, it’s easy to grab something for convenience or be tempted by something naughty. It also makes cooking meals a nightmare if you’re extremely indecisive like me!
So here are my top ten tips for creating an effective meal plan and sticking to it.
Take your time
It can be time consuming, but getting the meal plan right is way more important than just getting it done. As Nick & I both follow Slimming World, we eat the same meals which make things a lot easier. We sit down together on a weekend and plan all our breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the following week. We look back through the cook books & magazines and decide what we fancy so we’re not tempted by a takeaway.
Plan to your taste
If you’re just starting a healthy eating journey, or looking to switch things up, it can be easy to try and force yourself to eat food you don’t actually like. This is probably the worst thing you can do. I know I won’t want to cook/eat something I don’t like, and therefore I’m more susceptible to go off plan.
Life is all about balance and sometimes it’s just not possible to be on plan. If you have an event or special occasion coming up, incorporate this into your meal plan. It’s important not to restrict yourself too much but this doesn’t mean you have to completely undo all of your hard work so far. If you’re allowing yourself to indulge a little for an occasion, put this on your meal plan but just make sure the rest of your meals are on plan.
When you’re busy working, it can be hard to remember everything on your meal plan. We use a Princess Planning A4 meal plan pad which is stuck on our fridge. That way, whoever is home first can see exactly what we’re having and get dinner on the go. I also copy the meal plan into my planner which stays with me. Here is a photo of my meal plan for this week.
Shop to the plan
Once you have a sturdy meal plan, the next hardest thing is to only buy what’s on the plan. I have found that doing an online grocery shop is the easiest way to do this as you’re not tempted by the offers or snacks. However, we do our shopping at the supermarket and just avoid the bad food isles.
Have a back up
We’ve all done it, you get home and see something on the meal plan that’s just not what you’re feeling. I always keep a couple of the Iceland Slimming World ready meals in the freezer and some cooked meat in the fridge so I’ve got something to turn to if I need another option. Batch cooking is also a good way of having a back up; this isn’t something I normally do but I do freeze extra portions if I have any.
Cook for leftovers
I’m not a big fan of batch prepping lunches as I don’t like eating the same thing every day. So we tend to cook more as part of our evening meals and then take the leftovers for lunch the following day. If you don’t want the leftovers for lunch, they’re great to freeze so you have some back up meals for another day.
When you’ve been working all day, or if you’re late home, the last thing you’ll want to be doing is spending hours in the kitchen prepping and cooking dinner. In the winter the slow cooker is my best friend as I can chuck it on before I go to work and have dinner ready when I get home. The slow cooker can do anything from whole chickens to hearty stews, pasta dishes to pulled pork. One pot dishes are also fab when you’re limited on time.
Utilise spare food
If you’ve got veg that’s looking a bit worse for wear, you can whip them up into healthy, homemade sauces and soups in minutes. These can then be frozen and used another day. I tend to wing it and just chuck any old veg & some stock into the slow cooker to soften it and then blitz it with a hand blender. Google also has loads of recipes for sauces using leftover veg but these can easily be tweaked to make them spicy or to your taste.
So what if you slip up and end up getting a takeaway or scoffing a big bar of chocolate, we’re all human! We’re bound to indulge every now and again and sometimes it’s a really important part of helping you stay on plan. Over the years of dieting, one thing I have learned is to not beat yourself up about it. If you skip out on one of the meals on your plan, that’s fine, just carry on as normal. Have the next meal as you planned it to avoid the treat spiralling and become a 2/3 day binge (we’ve all been there). Be kind to yourself but protect yourself from it getting out of control.
These are the rules I live by when it comes to my meal planning, so I hope you find some of these tips helpful.