The end of 2020 saw my healthy habits and appetite for food fly completely out the window and I’ve since spent the last six months on a journey rediscovering my love for food. This sounds like fun, but it was a struggle I can’t even begin to describe. As someone who has always identified as a ‘foodie’, to suddenly be repulsed by just about everything was a total shock to the system. Some of my favourite dishes (XYZ) became the ones I turned my nose up to the most. These days my diet is what I like to call flexitarian. Considering animal protein was a large contributor to the disappearance of my appetite, becoming flexitarian or semi-vegetarian came more naturally than I could’ve imagined. But I knew what was on my plate wasn’t going to be enough of a change and that I needed to readopt those healthy habits I once had. I found planning my meals and preparing what I could for the week ahead was something I not only enjoyed but thrived on. And so, here are my top tips on how to meal plan and prep like a boss…
Make a schedule
When it comes to meal planning it can be helpful to have a guide of who is home for what meals each day. There’s no point in preparing a dinner that serves four if you’re the only one home to enjoy it. Gather your family members or whomever you live with and work out each other’s schedules. This is a great foundation for the start of a weekly meal plan, plus an opportunity to take note of any dietary needs or preferences. I suggest only planning a few meals to prep for the week in case your plans change or there are leftovers to be consumed.
Hit the cookbooks
It’s time to crack out the cookbooks and start making a list of recipes you’d like to eat for the week. There isn’t a single person I know who doesn’t own at least one cookbook, let alone a whole stack of them. And let’s not forget we’ve all got access to Pinterest when the cooking inspo is really lacking. Some of my favourite cookbooks I turn to are the KYND cookbooks and anything by Jamie Oliver or Jessica Sepel. Remember to keep your schedule in mind when selecting meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as when choosing for others.
Create a menu
This may be my favourite step! You know when dining at a restaurant there are several options to choose from on the menu? Well, that’s exactly what you are going to create. It’s all well and good to plan a roast dinner on Wednesday night, but when the time rolls around all you’re craving is a big bowl of pasta. Having different options for each meal time helps prevent this scenario from happening and makes mealtimes feel more exciting.
Write the shopping list
Once you’ve chosen a handful of recipes and created your weekly menu, it’s time to start writing out your shopping list. Be sure to carefully check the quantities you need for each ingredient – don’t just jot down ‘tinned tomatoes’ if you know you need them for more than one recipe. I like to organise my list into categories of fruit and veg, fridge and freezer, pantry and miscellaneous. I find this helps make the food shop much quicker as most supermarkets are also sectioned out in the same way.
Prep what you can
Set some time aside post-food shop to dedicate to prep work. Start by washing your fresh produce and putting everything else away. I know not everything can be prepared ahead of time but there are so many time-saving hacks you can utilise. Depending on what’s on your menu, you could roast a tray of veggies, boil a pot of rice, pasta or quinoa, make a batch of bliss balls, prepare a salad, bag your smoothie ingredients together, or simply chop up all your fruit and veg so it’s ready to go when you start cooking your next meal.