A smart plan can help you eat your way to better health. Claire Turnbull tells how.
Whenever I say the words meal planning, I can just hear people sigh “Oh, no” and “Do we really have to?” But honestly, it sounds a lot worse than it really is, and the investment of just five to 10 minutes of your time each week can save you from wandering aimlessly (and hungrily) around the supermarket, trying to work out what to eat. (Yes, I’ve seen you! It’s painful to watch; I don’t know how people do it!) After all, planning can save you money and help you eat better — and all this from a piece of A4 paper and a pen! So, to make this method more appealing, let’s rename it ‘power planning’.
My guide to power planning
Step 1 Fold a piece of A4 paper in half vertically.
Step 2 Scribble a quick table on one side of the paper. Include the days of the week you’ll have to shop for, adding columns for lunch and dinner. See the picture (above right) for a typical plan. It’s incomplete though; otherwise I’d be starving!
Step 3 Write the name of your supermarket on the other side of the paper, and if you buy meat or fruit and vegetables separately, add the name of your butcher or greengrocer, too.
Step 4 Start with dinners and decide what you’d like for the week. Think now about what you’ve got on and when you’re going out. I’d be looking to have red meat once or twice, chicken once or twice, fish once or twice, and some kind of vegetarian or egg-based meal about once a week. (I always have an omelette on our busiest night.)
Step 5 Work out what you can use from dinner for the following day’s lunch. (See the red arrows in the above picture.) For example, when I make an omelette, I boil eggs for our lunches the next day as I’m in ‘egg mode’; if we have chilli, then it’s mince on toast; and after a roast dinner, I make roast-vegetable salad.
Step 6 Consider what you can have on the day when you can’t use leftovers for lunch. Soup? Salad? A sandwich or a wrap? Jot it down so you know exactly what you’ll be eating.
Step 7 Write your shopping list on the other side of the page. Start with what you need for lunches and dinners, and then think about the basics: cereal, milk, bread, yoghurt, snacks and so on.
Step 8 Add the extras, such as paper towels or vinegar.
Step 9 Shopping time!
Step 10 Stick the plan on the fridge so everyone knows what you’re having. If you’re catering for a few different lunches, you may end up with two or three items in each box.
Here’s what my power plan looks like. Yours doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to work for you!
roast vegie salad
chilli mince with vegies and rice
mince on toast
fish and salad
salad and tuna
omelette and salad
salad with boiled eggs
vegie and lentil curry
homemade fish and chips with peas
steak and vegies
Power planning has saved me a huge amount of money, and it also encourages me to try new foods! To keep things interesting, I try to make one new recipe every week. It works for me, so will you embrace power planning?
Until next time, I wish you happy, healthier living!