It can be a bit of a chicken and egg situation, which comes first?
Let’s start with planning. It helps if you already like to be organised but if not, don’t worry, it doesn’t take that much effort.
Thinking ahead will make it easier to write a shopping list and you’ll save time at the shops because you already know what you need.
You could also save money by not buying and potentially wasting excess food.
It also reduces the temptation of ordering a take away if you get home from a long day at work and don’t know what to have for tea. It’s tempting to take the easy (but often unhealthy) option in this scenario. I’ll post more on takeaways another time.
Over the weekend, I usually take 5 minutes to sit down and plan the following week’s meals according to how busy my work and social schedule are (if you’re reading this in lockdown not a lot going on socially!). If I’m short on time, want to exercise in the evening or have a particularly busy day planned I opt for either:
- quick easy meals to cook from scratch such as a stir fry or pasta dish
- I’ll defrost something pre-cooked such as chilli or curry that I’ll only have to reheat and cook some rice.
Otherwise I plan the week’s meals around:
- what fresh food I have left in the fridge and needs eating so as not to be thrown away
- what meat or fish I may have already in the freezer
- what’s in my store cupboards
Of course, I am making a big assumption that you like to cook from scratch as much as I do. If not, then your quick meal could be a ready meal (hopefully a healthy version). You can always head to the recipe section and have a bash at a new recipe when you have more time.
I use a monthly calendar planner in my Filofax but you could just use your diary or a notepad. Be prepared to be fluid as plans can change. You might get invited out to dinner or pick up some fantastic fish off the reduced shelf when you’re shopping and decide to cook it straight away. You’ll have to revisit the planner, it’s one reason I write mine in pencil.
I also keep a list of everything in my freezer so I don’t buy something I’ve already got and eventually everything in the freezer actually gets eaten and nothing gets left to languish unknown and forgotten about at the bottom.
Being organised means you’ll be more likely to make healthier choices, especially when under pressure. It could just be time pressure if you’re in a rush or your hunger may be driven by other factors, such as emotion or stress. I can relate to comfort eating when I feel low or my game of golf is not going well.
Being prepared is a form of damage limitation, I know that I’m going to eat even though I’m not hungry, but if I have the option to choose a little pot of nuts over a snickers bar I’ll save myself a shed load of sugar and unwanted calories. Of course, sometimes the snickers bar will win hands down (I am human)– but not every time!
Food preparation – I’m not one for chopping up all my salad and vegetables at the start of the week but I know it works for some people.
My food preparation involves:
- Making lunch the night before. I’m hardly ever at home for lunch so I alternate with a salad one day and a sandwich, wrap or filled pitta the next. I’m always in a rush in the morning so this works for me.
- Batch Cooking. At the weekend or whenever I have time I often cook 4-6 portions of something so that the extra can be frozen in portions for another day.
- I try and have the following healthy snacks prepared:
- I make a big pot of homemade soup every week using stock and leftover veg out the fridge or frozen veg out of the freezer.
- I take a pot of nuts with me everywhere so that I’m never without food. I don’t always eat them but at least they’re always to hand. Beware – nuts are quite fattening so I regulate the pot to 10g each of walnuts, brazil nuts and almonds. Some snack packs of nuts that are displayed at shop counters often contain at least 2 portions worth!
- Boiled eggs. A great protein packed powerhouse. Ideal after training sessions.
- Sweet potato seedy muffins. I make 12 at a time and freeze half and then just take them out as needed to defrost. I often have half before a workout and half after with a glass of milk. Click here for the recipe.