Menu Planning Top Tips

One of the most successful tools that I discovered when I was losing weight was menu planning. When h2b and I first lived together we had no idea how to shop for a week of food. We would wander around the supermarket aimlessly grabbing what we felt like eating and the trolley would soon be filled. However when I would go to make dinner I would open the fridge or cupboard door and would find I couldn’t make many meals from what we had bought. Our supermarket bills were also really high but we would end up popping out to the shops several times per week just to get something to create a meal from (and while we were there a little more junk would make its way into the basket). Evening snacking was a regular occurrence as were slices of cheesecake or tubs of icecream to eat in front of the telly!

When I first joined Weightwatchers in 2003 I would come home from University to our flat and start rummaging in the freezer for something to eat. We would often be at the campus all day and not be back home until after 6.30 yet I would walk through the door with no idea of what we would eat. In those situations it is very easy to convince yourself to grab a takeaway or head to the local pub for a bargain burger!! I knew deep down that I would not succeed at WW while I continued that way. However it was another 4 years before I really learned how to plan and shop for health and budget!

Understanding how to shop and plan my meals was the single biggest change I made which allowed me to lose weight successfully. I usually do my weekly shopping on a Sunday morning so I began sitting down on a Saturday and thinking what to cook for the week. I would take into account any special events that week (friends round for dinner, working late etc) and would plan appropriate meals for that day. I would then add in other favourites for the remaining days thinking about how I would feel on those days (Friday tea is always a quick one for me but on Saturday I like to spend more time cooking a meal). Once that was complete I could create a shopping list. For each meal I would go through everything I need to cook and serve it and add anything I need to the list. I would also think about breakfasts, lunches and snacks and add them to the list.

I have been doing this ever since! I walk into the supermarket on a Sunday morning and know exactly what I need to buy and that I will have ingredients to make healthy tasty meals for a whole week. Sometimes plans change, or you don’t feel like cooking so I always make sure I have a mixture of quick and easy, and more involved recipes which I can swap around during the week.

Top tips for meal planning:

  1. Find a quiet 30 minutes in your day and sit down with a cup of tea!
  2. Write the days you are shopping for down the left hand side of the page
  3. Add in any nights you know you have special requirements (e.g guests for dinner, OH is out, needs to be out by 7etc)
  4. Look through your cupboards and plan meals based on what needs using up. Assign each one to a day on your plan (although these can be interchangeable)
  5. Add in one or two new recipes or ideas per week to break things up and stop any boredom.
  6. Create your shopping list based on what you plan to cook.

Doing this means I can come straight in from work and know what I need to prepare for dinner. 9 times out of 10 I have dinner on the go before H2B gets in from work so we have no opportunities to convince ourselves to get a takeaway. We do still eat out and get takeaways from time to time but usually this is planned and looked forward to so that we get the most enjoyment from it.

I will post my next menu plan and shopping list for you at the weekend so you can see that I practice what I preach! 🙂

Does anyone else menu plan? If so why not share some of your tips too?

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6 responses to “Menu Planning Top Tips

  1. Great tips! I never meal plan but I probably should!

  2. I’m the same way. I know exactly what I am making every week. Probably because I read so many food blogs, I get a ton of ideas and just figure it out. If I know its going to be a hectic night, I’ll make something in the crock pot, or something that’s easy to put together.

    I was lucky, my parents shopped like that when I was growing up, my Mom put up a menu of what was for dinner every night, and now I do the same!

    It does make a difference in your wallet too!

  3. Every week I say I am going to do this and I NEVER have. I usually have a rough idea of dinners for a couple nights when I get to the store, and a grocery list of things we are out of (basics), but never a full plan. I need to get on that!

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