Beginners Guide to Meal Planning

08/09/21

(Last updated 10/05/21)

Are you wanting to eat healthier while spending less time in the kitchen, minimising stress, saving money and reducing food waste? Step onboard the meal planning bandwagon!

When it comes to game-changing routines to encourage healthier eating, meal planning is a rightful contender for a top spot on the podium.

Unless we have access to a personal chef (imagine!), supporting our health through what we eat tends to require some consideration – and a bit of kitchen organisation – each week.

With our kitchen being a food environment we often have the most control over, it’s a great place to foster healthier habits – starting with our weekly menu!👨‍🍳

This post is divided into five parts. Keep scrolling to read on or click on any of the following links to go direct to that section:

What is Meal Planning?
Step-by-Step Meal Planning Example
Meal Planning Recipe Ideas
Nutrition Perks of Meal Planning
Meal Planning Tips

What is Meal Planning?

Meal planning is where we plan what we’d like to eat in advance, and getting organised so our plan can be carried out. It’s an ace practice to consider adopting, as:

  • It saves time by eliminating daily guesswork around what to eat. Planning wisely (e.g. cook once, eat many times!) can significantly cut down, even eliminate, time spent preparing and sourcing food each day.
  • It may support health by ensuring we have nutritious ingredients planned, on hand and ready to cook, especially when motivation is fleeting – one less barrier! If you’ve got health or fitness goals, you can make sure your plan reflects these.
  • It reduces food waste. Food waste is an astronomical, debilitating problem. Plan to use what you’ve got on hand to keep kitchen stock manageable and reduce what ends up in the bin.
  • It saves money as we can select meals that fit within our budget. It also helps avoid unnecessary spending on extra ingredients or takeaways out-and-about and across the week.
  • It’s educational. By taking a more vested interest in meal planning and preparation, we naturally grow skills and confidence in the kitchen.
  • It’s flexible. Do you only want to plan dinners? Awesome! Want to cover the full monty across breakfast, lunch, dinner AND snacks? You can! Plan to suit your schedule and keep remember there’s always room for quick revisions.

…and finally, it’s for everyone! Meal planning can be adjusted to any cooking or skill level – no matter whether you’re pro chef status in the kitchen or happily comfortable just frying an egg 🍳

Step-by-Step Meal Planning Example

It can be hard knowing where to start with meal planning. Here’s a typical flow I like to follow:

  • 1) Start by reviewing your calendar to get an idea of where to put your meal planning efforts. Assess time constraints, commitments to work around and wriggle room for spontaneous events across the week. From there, decide how many meals you need to plan for and how they need to fit it in e.g. a 15-minute throw-together after the kiddies dance class? Breakfasts that can be taken on-the-go to work? Enough leftovers for university lunches the next day?
  • 2) Shop your pantry first. Spend a minute jotting down ingredients that might be able to be utilised in your weeks meals. This is a great budget-friendly practice – it’s easy to spend on ingredients we may have forgotten are on hand! Take the opportunity to be food-safe and throw out any expired or old food.
  • 3) Write your meal plan. This could be rigid across each day or flexible where you just pick out a range of recipes you’d like to make. Be resourceful by utilising ingredients on hand. Maybe you have a half-empty bag of rice, a few eggs and some frozen veggies – bingo, egg fried rice! If you’re looking for inspiration, check out cookbooks or recipe blogs. Once finished, pop your plan on the fridge to keep it front of mind in the kitchen.
  • 4) Prepare a grocery list with the ingredients needed to make your planned meals. Double check kitchen stock, especially for little things like spices, to make sure you don’t double up.
  • 5) Go shopping! Arm yourself with a pen to cross off items as you go. Once home, unpack the bounty and pat yourself on the back! You’re all sorted for the week ahead – and how good does it feel?

Meal Planning Recipe Ideas

When picking out recipes or meal ideas for the week, make sure they’re feasible to make (no 3-hour slow cooked feast on busy nights!) and enjoyable. Here are regulars on our meal plan rotation:

  • Shelf-stable recipes that celebrate tinned and frozen ingredients. This way, if a social event comes up, there’s wriggle room to revisit the recipe another week without ingredient wastage! N&T shelf-stable favourites include this creamy coconut, lentil and vegetable curry or this basic vegan chili.
  • Leftovers or recipes you can batch cook. If you’re already cooking, why not cook extra for lunch or dinner leftovers the next day? N&T leftover favourites include this red lentil and spinach dahl or this curried mince.
  • Snack stash. A meal plan can include snacks and sweet treats too! Planning and prepping a batch of your favourite grab-and-go snacks can be a great time-saver during the week. N&T snack favourites include these four ingredient chocolate hazelnut bliss balls and these chocolate-coated rice cakes.

As you find recipes you like on your meal planning journey, make sure to jot down, bookmark or save them! Pretty soon you’ll have a stellar repertoire of recipes, making future meal planning easy-breezy.

Nutrition Perks of Meal Planning

  • Without a kitchen plan-of-action, any meals or snacks prepped, or much consideration, it’s all too easy to get stuck in cycles of eating out, ordering in or opting for convenience food. After all, that gnawing sensation in our stomach is something we’re not meant to biologically ignore!
  • While it’s important to have flexibility – to eat what we want when we want to – meal planning is a behavioural change that helps anchor our overall dietary habits. What we plan is what we will likely eat!
  • If we’ve spent time earlier organising a kitchen plan-of-action, and have the ingredients on hand needed to make a healthier meal, we create an environment that has our back and supports health🤙.

It’s also a great way to gently review our diet. When planning, check in with questions like does my meal plan include enough veggies? Is there plenty of variety? Are meals nutritionally balanced across food groups? Do they meet my health needs?

Meal Planning Tips

  • There’s no one size fits all approach to meal planning. The most important thing is to keep it enjoyable and manageable. This will likely lead to sustainability, which leads to consistency…which ultimately means results!
  • Start small. You don’t have to plan every meal. Even one or two ingredient sets sitting ready can make a world of a difference after a long day.
  • When picking recipes, opt for dishes you’d enjoy to eat and make! Keep your favourites on rotation. Don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel each week.
  • Think double duty. A big tray of root veggies or whole chook could be repurposed across the week into different meals. One big batch of curry could be frozen into heat-and-eat meals. Work smarter, not harder.
  • Don’t be militant. If tonight’s Tuesday’s chicken and rice is on the menu, but you feel like Thursdays tofu stir-fry, don’t be afraid to switch it up.

Introducing Nourish & Tempt Meal Planners

I’m excited to share that I’ve created a range of magnetic fridge meal planners, which you can find here in the N&T shop!

The perks of meal planning is something I’ve spoken countless times with clients about as a nutritionist, and a personal practice I religiously do every week.

The N&T meal planners were created as a tool for planning meals, kitchen organisation and inspiring healthy habits.

I wanted them helpful, considered and ultimately flexible for the planner…we are all on different health journeys after all! With that, they have been purposely been designed to have no meal time annotation. Use how you wish – plan one mealtime or plan them all.

They’re laid out in a weekly format, kicking off with Sunday so you can head into a new week with ease🤙 For the busy bee minds (me!), there are boxes to keep track of low kitchen stock and weekly reminders.

There are three designs – a minimalist marble, a cute-as-a-button oranges, and a boho watercolour waves. I cycle through them in my my kitchen and often switch it up. You can check them out in the N&T store here.

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