If there is one thing I absolutely love and that I always encourage people to do, is to meal plan. Meal planning helps you stay healthy whilst also saving you money and time, so what’s not to love about it? I’ve been doing it regularly for 4 years, and the rare few times I wasn’t able to do it, everything was a mess. So I want to help you today and tell you what the benefits of meal prepping are, why you should start doing it now, and how to get started. And if you keep reading down below, you will find my free weekly meal planner + shopping list printable, because I seriously want to make your life as easy as possible! Let me start by saying that though I don’t follow a specific diet, I like to be healthy. I’m not someone that counts the calories of every food I eat, but I just want to make sure I have a balanced and varied diet, and that, in itself, can be a full-time job. When I thought about meal planning, I just had this idea that I had to eat the same thing for 7 days in a row for lunch and dinner. Now, nothing wrong with that, but I’m a foodie and I get bored of having the same food quite quickly, so that didn’t sound exciting to me. After thinking about how I could start and how I could make it work, I tried it out a bit, some things were a failure while others were successful, and I’m now pretty happy with where I’ve come to and I want to share with you what I’ve learned. Please note that I’m 100% Italian and I grew up with my grandma cooking everything fresh, every single day, so meal planning was a foreign concept to me, but now I’m proud to say I’ve become quite good at this. And if you read all the way to the end, there will be a nice gift for you. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF MEAL PLANNING? 1. IT HELPS YOU BE HEALTHY If you want to be healthy but find this goal difficult to achieve, meal planning is the solution for you. By planning your meals in advance and setting time aside to prepare them, you can make sure (if you are serious) to get all the right nutrients in your body, every single day, instead of randomly grabbing anything you fancy especially if you are trying to make a decision when you’re hungry. So if being healthy is your goal, you really have no excuse because meal prepping makes it easy for you. 2. IT SAVES YOU MONEY It’s common knowledge that buying in bulk helps you save money, as you can usually find good prices and offers on many groceries. And who wouldn’t like to save some money? Whilst we are all trying to get on the property ladder, get married, start a family, or travel the world, saving a few ££ each month can be very helpful. Meal planning will help you to make easy budget meals to help you stay on track with your finances. And if you need some help in this area, I recommend you check out my post where I talk about how to create a personal budget for beginners . 3. IT SAVES YOU TIME In this generation where everyone is always on the go and we barely have time to have breakfast before we rush out the door in the morning only to come back in the evening, having a healthy meal ready to take to work can be a lifesaver – or to just heat up at home when you have your lunch break. Or you may like to come home from work and quickly warm something up instead of cooking everything from scratch when you are tired and hungry. Don’t get me wrong, cooking is one of my favourite things to do, but when evening comes and I’m done with work, I’m HANGRY, so I need something ready and quick that I can have right away. I hope these 3 main points have convinced you to start your own meal planning journey, so now I’m going to share a few tips you can use to begin with.
HOW TO START WEEKLY MEAL PLANNING ON A BUDGET 1. MAKE A PLAN I bet you knew this already, but how do you actually do it? Don’t worry, I got you covered! If you scroll all the way at the bottom of this post, you will be able to download my FREE weekly meal plan template+shopping list. This is what I’ve used for years and it’s been a game-changer. I start by thinking about what I would like to eat in the coming week (or two weeks as I prefer to only do it twice a month) for lunch, dinner, and snacks, and then I write it all down (Note that I don’t prepare breakfast in advance as I make time for it as part of my productive morning routine , but feel free to add that to your meal plan). I also do it in a way where I won’t have the same meal the same day or for two days in a row, cause as I said already, I get bored of the same food quite quickly. Then I write an exact shopping list of everything that I need, but before I do that, I need to check what I already have in my pantry. 2. TAKE AN INVENTORY OF YOUR PANTRY There will likely be certain things that you already have and you won’t need to buy them again for another couple of weeks, so keep that in mind when writing your shopping list. For example, if you are meal prepping only for yourself or one other person, you might not need to buy rice, pasta, olive oil, or lentils every single week. So check how much you’ve got left of what you need before you buy it again. Do the same for your fridge and freezer, literally go through everything you already have. That way, you make sure you use everything you have instead of wasting, or buying unnecessary items. 3. KEEP IT VARIED Please remember to include all the nutrients you need when planning your meals. I always make sure I have some protein, whether it’s meat, fish, or plant-based, then I have carbs like pasta, rice, or potatoes, and then I add veggies. Since we should aim to eat 5 different portions of fruit and veg each day, I usually have 1-2 different portions of veg for lunch and dinner, and then I have some fruit in my snacks. Of course, if you follow a specific nutrition plan, yours may have to be different, but if you are just trying to remain healthy and eat a balanced diet, you can use these tips. If you want to hear it from the experts, I recommend you check out this very insightful article from the World Health Organization . 4. GET STOCKED ON FOOD CONTAINERS I don’t even know how many of these I own anymore. Big containers, soup containers, mini snacks containers, I’ve got all sorts; and you will need them too. Try to invest in decent quality ones but don’t spend too much time or money in choosing them. I usually buy plastic ones and I buy them in bulk so I can wash them and reuse them. I also make sure they are microwave and dishwasher friendly as I wouldn’t want to break them after the first use. Although, because I’m trying to lower my plastic consumption, I will soon be investing in some good quality, glass tupperware. 5. SET TIME ASIDE TO COOK This is going to take you a little while, but you only do it once and then you have food for days (or weeks), so it’s SO worth it. I usually do it on my day off and I spend between 2-3 hours in the kitchen, then I put some of my food in the fridge to eat in the upcoming days, and I freeze the rest. I suggest you start by preparing the food that will take the longest time to cook. For example, I usually start by roasting the potatoes and vegetables, as they take absolute ages to cook properly. Once they are in the oven and out of my way, then I think about the rest. I may chop some other veggies that I only need to stir fry like mushrooms, I cook some lentils and boil rice, or make my pasta sauce. If you really, really, want to cook everything right there and then, then you may want to cook your pasta too if you eat that frequently, but I personally don’t like it if it’s not fresh, so I do it when I need to eat it but that only takes 10 minutes or so. What I do prep in advance is the sauce cause I’m very Italian so I make my own pasta sauce. Sometimes I’ll eat things like frozen pizza or fish and chips, so clearly those ones need to be eaten right after defrosting, but they don’t require me to be in the kitchen while they cook, so it’s no big deal for me as I can go and do other stuff.