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Do you often wonder what food you’re going to eat today? Then meal planning may help.

Find yourself wandering up and down the supermarket aisles, looking for inspiration? Have you thrown out food because it went bad before you used it?

Then there’s one simple thing you can do to help with this which will save you time, money, and a lot of stress. And that’s meal planning!

How meal planning can help you

It may sound like a big hassle, but if you plan several days in advance, you’ll save time by not having to decide everyday what you’re going to eat.  

You can save a lot of money too. By planning what you’re eating you can reduce your reliance on packaged food and you’re less likely to impulse buy or get more than you need.

Meal planning is also great news for reducing food waste, which is a major contributor of landfill and greenhouse gas emissions. In the UK alone we throw away around 6 million tonnes of food a year.  

It’s a lot less exhausting not having to decide every day what you’re going to eat!

Planning your meals can help to introduce new foods into your diet. For good health it’s important to get a variety of foods and for these to be real whole foods as much as possible.

It can also be really helpful if you’re aiming to lose weight or just eat healthier.

How to start planning

You may find it helpful to pick a day you’re going to do your plan and go shopping.

It’s a good idea to check what you’ve already got in the fridge, freezer and cupboards – no more doubling up on stuff or finding there’s no room in the freezer (I’ve been guilty of this many times)!

As part of your planning process think about your commitments for the week. Even though things are very different right now you may find you have as much going on as before, it just happens to be online. By considering how much time you have you can plan what you’re eating.

Do you need to plan something quick like a tofu stir fry one night? Is there a new recipe you’ve seen you fancy trying when you have a bit more time at the weekend?

Be inspired

Having a scan through some recipe books you may not have used for ages can really help to spark some enthusiasm.

Or you may prefer to scan the internet and be inspired to try something new. Planning gives you the time to do this.

Make it easy on yourself

If the thought of planning your meals feels a bit overwhelming – start simple. So you don’t feel overwhelmed you could start by planning your main meal of the day, or a few days at a time.

You could decide that most of your food will be your familiar favourites and you’ll try one new meal each week.

Veggie Burger
You can try a range of new foods as well as old favorites Credit: Adobe. Do not use without permission

How tech can help

If you have a smart speaker this can be an easy way to create a shopping list using an app, such as AnyList among others.

This is really handy if several of you want to add to the list. You can change the default settings to more vegan friendly categories. Many recipe websites are set up so you can add ingredients straight from the site to the app. 

You can even drag and drop items into the right order, speeding up your shopping time.

Meal prep and batch cooking

You don’t have to prepare meals in advance, but many people find this a great way to plan and stick to it. You might decide to prepare some of your meals when you have more time.

The other way to save time is to make large batches of freezer friendly recipes whenever you’re making them. Any spare portions can then go in the freezer. This way you have healthy ready meals for those times when you just don’t feel like cooking (happens to us all!) or when you’re just short on time.

Excellent freezer options include homemade burgers, chilli, curry, soup and dhal. Don’t forget to put a date and description on. I would forever be defrosting food, not having a clue what it was.

You can also find recipes that serve six, for example, if there are two of you. You’ll have three meals for the week, but only one lot of preparing and cooking. This is another great time saver.

Find what works for you

After using paper and our phones for a while we’ve found the easiest thing is to put our plan on a wipe board we keep in the kitchen. If plans change, we can just move a meal to another day.

There’s no right and wrong way, it’s whatever works for you.

Here are just some of the benefits of meal planning

  • Saves money
  • Reduces food waste
  • Saves time
  • Makes it easier to eat healthily
  • Can reduce stress
  • Makes it easier to eat a greater variety of food

Something so simple can have huge a huge impact on your life.

It’s important to remember we’re talking about planning here, not some hard and fast regime that can’t be changed. The idea is to reduce stress, not add to it because you’ve not stuck to something.

Has this given you the inspiration to try?

Coral Sirett

Coral Sirett is a vegan weight loss coach, qualified nutrition adviser, workplace wellbeing consultant, speaker and the founder of Zest Health. Based in the UK, she works with clients worldwide offering private health coaching and consultations, a personalised nutrition report, and an online programme. Coral adopts a gentle and sustainable approach with clients as she believes lasting healthy change should be an enjoyable and positive experience. Find out more at Zest Health.