January. The time of year that everyone starts thinking about their health and losing weight. I’ve already said on my Instagram how I feel about the body shaming hype and the glossy magazines that tell you how you need to “lose weight fast!”, so I thought I’d share some practical tips on how I plan out my meals and my weekly food shopping with the aim of helping you introduce small lifestyle changes rather than focusing on quick fixes.
Let me just start by saying: This isn’t a diet plan. It’s not about fat loss. It’s not even all about “health”. It’s about choosing foods that are tasty, satiating, wholesome and good for your mental health too! If you’re after weight loss this isn’t necessarily the blog for you. I have lost around 3kg over the last month or so, but purely by focusing on eating when I need to (and not just when I fancy it!).
Right, now that’s out of the way… let’s get started!
How I plan my meals
I like to plan my evening meals Monday to Sunday and base the bulk of my food shopping around those meals. This way, my food shopping has focus. If you don’t plan out what meals you’ll be cooking, you could end up with too many or not enough ingredients and resorting to less nutritious options, like takeaways, when you’re stressed out and busy! My breakfasts and lunches don’t really vary that much (partly due to time for meal prep), but I like to cook interesting and varied meals in the evenings for my husband and myself.
First I take into account my husband’s shifts and my diary. If my husband is working a late shift I’ll tend to try and choose something that can be cooked up quickly so I know I can do everything I need to get done before I start cooking. If I’m out one evening I’ll buy my husband something he can cook himself really easily so he doesn’t have to faff too much when he gets home from work.
Next I choose a meat base (or lack of!) and work from there. So, for example:
- Monday – chicken
- Tuesday – fish
- Wednesday – chicken
- Thursday – vegetarian
- Friday – beef
- Saturday – pork
- Sunday – lamb
These aren’t set days – I change it up on a weekly basis. Sometimes we’ll have more chicken, sometimes we’ll have pork or beef more than once in a week, sometimes we won’t. I do try to do a fish or vegetarian meal at least once a week if I can, though this doesn’t always happen. I find that planning out like this helps me keep variety of meat sources in our diet, and cutting down on meat with vegetarian meals is good for our general health as well as the environment.
Next up, I think about what ingredients I’ve got in the house already that I might be able to whip something up with. I don’t like to waste food if I can help it, so would rather make up a meal from things I already have than choose a recipe and find I have to buy loads of ingredients! Here are some healthy meal rules I try to include in planning:
- Include at least 2-3 different vegetables with every meal – mostly green, but also varied in colour for more nutrients
- Lean meats for the win… fish, chicken, and lean cuts of red meat
- Prioritise unprocessed starchy carbs – go for potatoes, rice, bulghar wheat, pearly barley, etc. first, then start to look at pasta, bread
- Include healthy fats – olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, seeds
- Add strong flavours and you’ll use less – I prefer full fat yoghurts, cheeses, sauces, etc. as they have more flavour – that way you’ll feel more satisfied with a smaller amount
- Spice it up – use herbs and spices, and a little bit of salt, and you’re less likely to need to drown your food in sauce
- Grill, dry fry and steam where possible – choose these more healthy cooking options to avoid excess calories
Once I’ve used up all I can, I’ll have a little browse for recipe inspiration. If I have them to hand I’ll look through recipe books, otherwise I’ll search online, usually using BBC Good Food (my favourite online recipe site!), for some new ideas.
And finally, the actual meal plan! I used to write my meal plans out on scraps of notepaper, but I’ve recently started a bullet journal, so now make a note of each evening’s planned meal in my weekly spread so I can check back on it when it comes to getting something out of the freezer or starting to cook.
Now… the shopping list.
Once I’ve decided on the week’s meals I’ll write out my shopping list. I always write a list – not only does it help stop me picking up things I don’t need (except for the odd peanut butter cup that make sneak its way into my trolley!) but it also saves time wondering around and forgetting things.
I’m a super organised person (in case you couldn’t tell!) so I like to write my shopping list out in the order in which I walk around the supermarket, so I start with vegetables and fruit, then meat, dairy, dried foods (pasta, rice, tins, etc.), eggs, bread, alcohol and frozen.
I almost always buy bananas, plus any other fresh fruit I fancy (and extra for our parrot!), meat, vegetables and packet rice for lunches, 10% fat greek yoghurt, milk and almond milk for breakfasts and smoothies, plus a bottle of wine for when I fancy a tipple. Chocolate and treats get picked up when we’re running low.
Example shopping list
Here’s an example of my weekly shopping list:
Vegetables and fruit
- Cherry tomatoes
- Green veg (broccoli, courgette, green beans, cabbage, leeks)
- Chicken breasts or thighs
- Pork loin steaks
- Beef mince
- Diced lamb or lamb leg steaks
- White fish or salmon
- Bacon (who doesn’t need bacon?!)
- Creme fraiche
- 10% fat greek yoghurt
- Tinned beans
- Porridge oats
- Almond milk
- Nut butter
- Dried Fruit
- Bread (sourdough is one of my favourites!)
- Fruit bread
- Bottled water
- White or red wine
- Frozen peas/sweetcorn
- Ice cream (duh!)
- Sweet chilli
- Wholegrain mustard
A lot of these things I’ll keep in my cupboards at home and won’t need to buy on a weekly basis, but they need a top up every few weeks or so. Check out my blog on how to meal prep for the 9-5 if you want some meal inspiration!
How does this compare to how you plan your meals and food shopping? Do you have a similar process or is this new to you? If you liked this post please let me know by commenting below or on social media and please share with anyone who might find this helpful!