The benefits of food planning - tips and techniques

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Eating balanced, delicious and nutrient-rich meals every day isn’t always as easy as those health bloggers make us think – in fact, it rarely is! For many of us, a busy lifestyle often means having to cut corners and ‘make do’, especially when it comes to our diets. But gone are the days of eating left-overs and cereal for dinner – food planning is here to save you.

But what exactly is it? Food planning, as the term suggests, involves organising and sometimes preparing your meals ahead of time. You can do it for yourself, for your kids, or for your whole family, and you can choose to plan all or just one or two of your daily meals – and though most people do it to save time during the week, its benefits go much further. Pre-planning your food allows you to save money, control portions, minimise food waste, and stick to a healthy diet. Plus, let’s not forget the best bit: a delicious, full meal right when you want it!

So how do you do it? The best part about food planning is that there’s no right or wrong way to do it. It’s supposed to make your life easier, not harder, so you should find a system that works best for you.

Most people like to do their food planning on the weekend and plan for the week ahead, as this is when time becomes most precious. Many find the best way to go about it is to first sit down and brainstorm meal ideas in a diary or meal planner, so they can get a sense of their weekly menu at a glance. This is also the time to be creative with your food! Flick through a recipe book (or Pinterest!) so you don’t wind up eating the same old foods over and over again.

Tip: Check your work/social calendar and weather forecast while brainstorming your meals. Hot or cold weather can influence the food you crave and enjoy, while work commitments and social events might call for specific nourishment or portion sizes.

Once you’ve planned your meals, it’s time to grab your shopping list and shop accordingly. The benefits here are obvious – shopping with a detailed list speeds up shopping time (no more aimless wandering around supermarket aisles!) and let’s you condense a week’s worth of shopping into one trip.

Back at home, many choose to dedicate an afternoon to cooking and storing their weekly meals. This does require a bit of free time (and lots of suitable food storage containers) but it saves hours of time during the week. Just be sure to pop your meals in the fridge or freezer (depending on when you’re going to eat them) to keep them fresh.

If you don’t have enough time to cook all of your meals, aim to ‘prep’ instead. Chop, peel and portion your ingredients ahead of time, then store them in the fridge or freezer. Come meal time, all you’ll need to do is toss the ingredients together and cook. Prepping your food won’t save as much time as cooking, but it certainly eliminates all of that time spent fumbling with a vegetable peeler!

Tip: If you thought you couldn’t prep broths or dressings, think again! Make up your broth or dressing as usual, then pour into an ice cube tray and freeze. When you’re cooking, just pop the cubes out as needed and cook or let defrost.

And there you have it – food planning made easy! Time to give those health bloggers a run for their money…

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